Sunday, February 17, 2008

One Shining Moment, More To Come?

From John Feinstein's "A Season Inside":

April 4, 1988 ... Kansas City

The first twenty minutes of this game belong in a time capsule somewhere. Basketball just didn't get much better than this. Kansas was not the least bit intimidated by Oklahoma's press. Rather than pull the ball out at center court after breaking it, the Jayhawks went right to the basket. Since Oklahoma was doing the same thing on every possession, the pace was torrid...

... Manning made the play of the half, stealing the ball from Sieger, driving across the lane on King and flipping the ball in over him as he was going down. Normally impassive, Manning was shaking his fist after that one and Kemper was rocking. ... It was 50-50. Twenty minutes to decide a championship. ...

If the players weren't exhausted, everyone else was. The game was reminiscent of Villanova-Georgetown in 1985 when the Wildcats had shot 79 percent to pull one of the greatest upsets in history. Kansas had shot 71 percent in the first half -- and was even. ...

... The end was near. ... With five seconds left, the national championship was in Danny Manning's hands. Oklahoma was out of time-outs. If Manning made both shots, even if the Sooners scored, they would be helpless. The clock would run out.

Manning knew all this. 'It's over,' he told himself. ' 'It's over.' ... Manning dribbled, looked up and shot. The ball hit the top of the front rim, slid over it -- while Ed Manning's heart stopped beating for a split second -- and dropped through. It was 82-79. Now, it came down to the last shot of Danny Manning's college career. This was exactly the way he wanted it, the way he had always dreamed it. Like every kid who had ever held a basketball in his hands, Danny Manning had played this scene out thousands of times. Make this shot and win the national championship.

This time, Manning didn't need the rim. It was 83-79. The celebration began as Grace threw up one final shot. Manning, playing right to the buzzer, grabbed the rebound and turned around, the ball in his hands as if to say, 'Is there anything else I need to do?'

... He had fantasized it thousands of times and now, when it was real, he wasn't quite sure whether to believe it.

But his eyes and ears told him it was true. He looked at the Kemper Arena scoreboard and there it was: Kansas 83, Oklahoma 79. And the clock said :00. ... His face exploded into a look of utter ecstasy and he began searching for people to hug.

He didn't have far to go. Chris Piper was running toward him, arms in the air, his head back, screeching something that was unintelligible to Manning. It didn't matter. Piper had been there all four years at Kansas with Manning. They had suffered together, living through all the near-misses and the key injuries, wondering often if there was such a thing as a happy ending and holding each other as if the other were a life raft when it seemed so often that their epitaph would be, "If only..."

Now, there would be no epitaph, just a legacy -- and a happy ending. And so, as was only right, Manning and Piper fell into each other's arms, living a moment so filled with happiness that, later, it hardly seemed real. Then their teammates were climbing on them, clutching and grabbing at them, each player a part of this because no one -- not even their coaches -- among the thousands in the arena or the millions watching on television could understand how this felt. ...

It was a poetic ending to a superb basketball game, one worthy of the setting and the stakes. Kansas had achieved one of the most dramatic victories in tournament history..."

Danny Manning, Feb. 16, 2008:

"Our championship team is nowhere near the team we have now at Kansas."

1 comment:

  1. Another great historical note, about Archie Marshall, one of the '88 alumni present at this weekend's celebrations...

    From the Feinstein book:

    "October 14, 1987 ... Lawrence, Kansas.

    [Manning] wondered ... if he hadn't made a mistake passing up the NBA for his last year of college. But, looking around the floor, Manning saw the reasons he had stayed. In one corner, Archie Marshall was answering reporters' questions. Eighteen months earlier, in a Final Four game against Duke, Marshall had crashed to the floor of Reunion Arena in Dallas, his knee torn up. He had sat out the entire 1987 season, rehabilitating the knee so he could come back and play with Manning one last season.

    During the springtime, when Manning was in the throes of deciding whether to return to Kansas or take the pro money, Archie Marshall had said mournfully to Manning's mother, 'Mrs. Manning, Danny's going to turn pro and I'll never get to play with him again.'

    'Archie, don't you worry,' Darnelle Manning had said. 'I'll take care of that.'

    She had done just that. Never once had she told her son he had to stay in school or wailed about him getting his degree. But Danny knew how she felt and he wanted to play with Archie."

    Rick Plumlee picks up the story in Saturday's Wichita Eagle:

    "Archie Marshall was a starting senior forward on the '88 team until he tore the ACL, MCL and cartilage in his left knee shortly after Christmas of that season. But in a 75-57 home victory over Oklahoma State to close the regular season, Brown put Marshall in for the final seconds to attempt one last shot of his career.

    As Marshall limped onto the court, an OSU assistant told his players to back off and not guard Marshall. That assistant was Self.

    'I still hit nothing but air,' Marshall recalled.

    Fifteen years later, it was Self who encouraged Marshall to return to KU and finish his degree. He did so, finishing up in 2005."