Why I Like Duke

In an effort to counter all of the unwarranted and patently biased hatred spewed from these pages toward Duke University’s basketball program recently, I have taken it upon myself to be the lone voice of reason.

I like Duke.

Honestly, I’ve liked Duke for a very long time.

I grew up in Kansas and have been a Jayhawk fan for as long as I can remember. But, when I was 15 and saw the Blue Devils dismiss my beloved Jayhawks in the National Championship game…a new-found respect forced its way into my psyche whether I wanted it to or not. I watched in awe as Christian Laettner and company handed Roy Williams’ scrappy team yet another second-best finish.

It felt funny to me. But, even at a young age, I couldn’t deny the fact that I knew I was watching greatness unfold before me.

That ’91 Duke team was the beginning of a wild and iconic ride for all of college basketball. Of course, they went on to win it all again in ’92. And that was just the beginning.  In the two decades since, Duke has shown us all what it means to be truly great.

Since, the early ’90′s, Duke has blessed us all with wave after wave of players with, not only, great talent, but also exceptional character. Of course, there have been some less-than-perfect examples from time to time, but overall, name one program that has exuded such class, as consistently, as the Duke Blue Devils. You can’t.  Any program in the country would kill to have the type of role-models Duke has had.

But, of course, this is a sports blog and we are not here to talk about character and class.   We’re here to talk about the game.  And, there is no better representation of all the great things about today’s game than Duke.  Coach Krzyzewski knows how to get the best out of his players and we get to benefit from that.  Duke teams are consistently among the top squads year in and year out.  They play an exciting style that appeals to all ages and demographics.   There, quite simply, is nothing better than watching Duke play it’s “A” game in front of 9,000 adoring fans.

And speaking of the fans, one cannot talk about the phenomenon of Duke basketball without mentioning the Cameron Crazies.  There is no more dedicated, knowledgeable or committed fan base in all of college basketball.  In fact, I would argue that they rank right up there with the likes of Yankees, Patriots and Eagles fans as some of the best in all of sports.  Whether they are taunting opposing players or camping out in a tent in “Krzyzewskiville,” NO fans come close to being as loyal and attached to the University itself as the Dukies.  Sure, they get a bad rap from time to time, but with popularity comes criticism.  The media outlets (like this one)  would love nothing more than to see Duke fail.

But, we, the fans, know better.  College basketball needs Duke.

Fortunately for us, they’re going to be around for a long, long time.

Go Duke!

Rick Pitino On the Losing End of Another Cheap Shot

For years, Kentucky fans have had to watch highlight after highlight of Christian Laettner’s last second shot to knock them out of the tournament in 1992 and propel Duke to a National Championship. Every March that memory comes flowing back.

However, Kentucky fans have been always been able to hold on to some righteous indignation: He shouldn’t have even been in the game!

As every UK fan (or UNC fan) knows Laettner famously stomped on the chest of Kentucky forward Aminu Timberlake: They should have lost. They shouldn’t have won that championship! [see video below]

Well, this Saturday, Kentucky got a little revenge on the college basketball world, while former UK coach Rick Pitino had to watch again as another player assaulted one of his boys only to legitimately torch his team later. In their annual rivalry match with the Louisville Cardinals, everybody’s favorite twelve year old girl trapped in an eighteen year old man’s body did just that. In the spirit of Laettner’s foot-to-the-chest maneuver, Cousins thrust his elbow squarely into the chin of Louisville forward Jared Swopshire in a scramble for a loose ball. Like Laettner, Cousins was not ejected—even though the officials consulted an instant replay monitor for several minutes—and went on to score Kentucky’s next six points. [see video below.]

EJSIC was able to contact Mr. Laettner to get his thoughts on DCuz’s recent interpretation of the art he perfected: “I think the elbow to the jaw is an interesting take. The key, though, is to make it kind of look like it was incidental.”

“A lot of players fail to be inconspicuous in their cheap shots. For instance, Chris Paul was far too obvious with his less than subtle shot to NC State’s Julius Hodge’s scalloped potatoes. [As a result, Paul was ejected and suspended for subsequent games.] You can never be that straight-forward with it.”

Laettner continued, “Really, what’s more important than the actual act is how you manage your image prior. Compared to (previous champion) UNLV’s players, I might as well have been the immaculately conceived child of Sully Sullinberg and Mother Theresa. I definitely benefited from being compared to those thugs.”

“It also didn’t hurt that I was white,” Laettner pointed out.

So, whose unpunished cheap shot was the most impressive? It’s a harder question than you think.

On one hand, Laettner boldly stomped on a man’s chest in front of a national audience in the NCAA tournament. He then went on to hit possibly the most famous shot in NCAA history. Cousins, on the other hand, came in with a reputation as a hot-head thuggish player and was still able to get away with his elbow drop. Not an easy task.

All things considered, you have to think that the legend of the game-winning Laettner shot keeps his Timberlake cheap shot at the top of the list. DCuz gets off the hook by the slimmest of margins.

One thing is for sure, Rick Pitino won’t have either player on his Christmas list next year.