For me, there was an interesting dynamic to last night. Heading into the game, I probably leaned more toward the school of thought thinking that Monday’s game was just another one in a season that we can all see is turning out to be special (SLAM agrees). As of 7 pm last night, 2,000 was just a number and something I thought we’d high-five about momentarily and then forget about it. Any confetti, fireworks or prolongued celebrations would be too much and possibly a distraction to a young team with a focus on a much bigger prize.
I could not have been more wrong.
The only thing more clear than John Wall’s superhuman abilities was how much this really meant to everyone involved with it. This win was bigger than a number and ESPN captured it perfectly. From the 81-year old fan to the visibly moved 19 and 20 year old players, from Joe B. Hall and Adolph Rupp’s son to John Calipari, you could tell that 2,000 wasn’t just a number. It really meant something to anyone and everyone who has ever associated themself in any way with Kentucky. For over 100 years, this program has not always been about basketball. It’s been about a dream and a mystique and something that people from Paducah to Pikeville (shout out to Cal) could identify with and have as their own. It represents a bond between father and sons (as I had the pleasure of experiencing last night) and, for so many of us, a place we’ve left and still hold so dear. Last night wasn’t about a number. It was about again validating the dream that every kid has dreamed and how you felt the first time you went to Rupp or that tingle you got in your stomach the first time you got to shake Dan Issel’s hand. For over 100 years, Kentucky has been great because of what happened on the court. But, it’s been truly special because of what it represents. That’s what it was about last night and I’ll never doubt it again.
Here are some of the greats on last night (via Cat Scratches):
“I think it’s important that the University of Kentucky would be the first school to 2,000 wins. I think it shows how great the program has been since basketball became prevalent. UCLA had a great run under coach (John) Wooden. Duke has been very good since coach (Mike Krzyzewski) has been there. But from the beginning to the end, getting to 2,000 wins proves that Kentucky has been the strongest college basketball program.”
“Kentucky has always prided itself in not really following trends but setting trends. I think that we’ve set a lot of good trends in terms of the coaches that have been hired to run this program for the most part and great players who are not only great players but great people. I think that if you’re 18 and 19 years old and you come and see the facility, or you watch a game in Rupp Arena, or Midnight Madness, or you go to a football game, or you’re a recruit and everybody is encouraging you to come be a part of something special, you feel the energy and the love from the very first time you walk on campus. For people to continue to feel that way long after you’re gone says a lot about the people, about the state of Kentucky, but more importantly, it says how special the tradition we have at the University of Kentucky when it comes to basketball.”
“When you look at the rest of the programs, a lot of people go off of a name. Like if there is a certain individual, you can pretty much put that individual with a name. When you do that at Kentucky, you do the whole state, you do everybody – Kentucky fans, the University of Kentucky and the players. We’re all included together. When you name off some of the other programs, you’re naming off individuals. In this program, no one individual stands above the program. It’s just the whole state of Kentucky. It’s one body, and that’s why I love the University of Kentucky. No one has ever done what we’ve done.”
“It’s not only the victories. It’s the fans. That to me more than anything is what makes this program different and outstanding more than any other place. Other places have some good fans but just not the number of loyal fans that constantly follow everything that is done from border to border, and not just state border, but throughout the country and throughout the world. I’ve had the opportunity to play all across the U.S. but also overseas in a lot of different foreign countries, and it seems like every time I walk out on the court to warm up or after the game, someone will come up and say, ‘Hey, I’m a Kentucky fan,’ and then call out a particular game or play. I think that’s what really separates this program from any other one.”
– One Kentucky fan channeled their inner Soul Asylum (I think that’s who had the video with the signs) for this artistic take on Win2K.