I am going to throw an unpopular opinion out there, which I am not normally known to do. But after watching the classic Gonzaga-UCLA game on Saturday night and seeing the slew of journalist columns on where it ranks in the pantheon of great NCAA Tournament games, it made me realize something that is hard to write but I think is true. I think I am good with how the 1992 Duke-Kentucky game finished. Doesn’t mean it won’t hurt every time you see that Laettner shot go down. Doesn’t mean that wasn’t a tragic way for that senior class to end their careers. But simply that in the grand scheme of things, the fact that Kentucky was part of the greatest college basketball game in history is actually a good thing. If Christian Laettner doesn’t hit that shot and UK goes on to win that game, our fanbase would remember it. Duke’s fanbase would remember it. But within 4-5 years, that game would just go into the file of other really good NCAA Tournament games, not as the all-time greatest.
Want a comparison? It’s easy. 1998 Duke-Kentucky. We consider that one of the highlights of our program. I’m sure the Duke fanbase considers it one of the most painful. But outside of that, the 1998 game doesn’t really get mentioned all that much nationally. And that was a FANTASTIC game played by two great teams, with a great comeback, huge shots, the whole thing. But William Avery’s miss at the end of that game made it forgettable in the minds of national fans.
The Laettner shot is what that game is all about and keeps it at the top of the list. And I like Kentucky being at the top of the list, even in defeat. The Jaylen Suggs shot cemented that game in the discussion for greatest game and I hate that. I don’t want anything touching UK at the top of the greatest games list.
This program revolves around history. We are historically, without question, the greatest basketball program in all of college basketball. If we win that 1992 Duke-Kentucky game, do we end up winning the national title? Probably not. Would have had to go through a very good Indiana team and then the Fab Five. Maybe we get through there and win another national title. But without knowing that, I am good with how that season is remembered. In some ways, that shot is part of what makes the Unforgettables. If that group just goes to the Final Four and loses to Indiana, the lore of that group just isn’t quite the same.
Nobody cheers for losing. But if you’re gonna lose a game, why not lose it like that? That game will never be forgotten and isn’t that in some ways a part of the UK legacy. We played in the greatest college basketball game ever. And it took it ending the way it did for it to be remembered as such. With 29 years behind us now, I am comfortable saying that I can accept how that game ended and hope no game ever competes with that ending. Gonzaga-UCLA might have come close and I think in time UCLA fans will be proud that their team was a part of that game. I know that I am proud that we are a part of the 1992 Duke-Kentucky classic.