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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Don’t Change 1992 Duke-Kentucky (And Don’t Top It Either)

John Biever | Getty Images

John Biever | Getty Images

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.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

23 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Don’t Change 1992 Duke-Kentucky (And Don’t Top It Either)

  1. DoubleB65
    10:12 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

    The 2016 Championship game where Villanova beat UNC on a buzzer beater already tops the Laettner shot. Quite simply it does because that was for all the marbles. KY/Duke was not.

    Gonzaga’s shot was bigger as well because it keeps them in the hunt for the perfect season AND a shot at the Championship, not simply a regional title.

    • bluemark
      10:35 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

      Respectfully disagree. That shot may have been in the Elite 8, but it WAS for all the marbles. No other team was beating UK that season. I remember being in awe of the grit and determination of that team. Like the Blues Brothers, they were on a mission from God!

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      10:41 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

      And that (2016 Nova) was a perfectly executed play, with little time left, and a nails-ice water-nothing-but-net 3 pointer. Gonzaga got lucky with a desperation heave off the backboard. Luck is a part of the game, and it was an amazing ending, but the Nova shot was, again, a perfectly executed play. The Zag shot will get more run though BECAUSE of the luck-off-the-backboard factor.

      Even though the Laettner shot wasn’t a 3 pointer like the Nova shot, it was still incredible because of how little time was left and the fact that they had to go the length of the court.

      Anyway, all this is opinion, but yes, the Nova 3 pointer was the better play. It just wasn’t as much of a circus type shot as Gonzaga, and circus shots get more run even if it’s mostly luck.

  2. ClutchCargo
    10:22 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

    I really want to disagree, but I can’t. I still would have liked for Sean Woods’ almost game winner to have stood, though. Who knows what could have happened in the next game.

  3. TTA2
    10:29 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

    How does a shot, that if missed, doesn’t end the game because it was already tied…beat a shot (Laettner’s) that MUST go in to not only win, but avoid a LOSS? The worst that could have happened with either Nova or Gonzaga is there would have been more of the game to be played. To me there is a ton more pressure if their is a deficit than tied. I frankly can’t see the debate. Just sayin.

    • TTA2
      10:31 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

      “There” not “their ”. Proofreading didn’t happen ?

    • UKinIN
      12:26 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

      You’ll only get 100% agreement out of me. The game was on the line when Laettner took his shot.

    • just a guy
      2:13 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

      Yes. 100% yes

  4. MfromW
    10:46 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

    I have always argued that there was one college basketball game where neither team was the loser, and one where neither team was the winner. Both games featured Kentucky vs. Duke. In the 1992 regional final, though Duke defeated Kentucky, that classic announced to the world that Kentucky was back and would be a forced to be reckoned with. Add to that the universal acclaim that it was the greatest college basketball game of all time, and there was really no loser in that contest. In the 1966 semifinal, Kentucky defeated Duke to advance to the title game, but there could be no winner in that one, because whichever of the all-white Southern teams advanced to play Texas Western was doomed to forever be the villain in the story of racial progress in college basketball. In 1992, neither team lost; in 1966, neither team won.

    • SuperTroy18
      11:57 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

      Wow. Well said.

  5. RogerW
    11:11 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

    It wasn’t just Laettners last shot that makes that game considered the best ever. Buzzer beaters happen all the time. It was the fact that there were potentially several game winners. Counting regulation, there were at least 3 shots that people thought was the game winner.

  6. ukcat70
    11:37 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

    I believe the 1966 UK-Texas Western is either 1st or a close second to the ’92 UK – Duke game. It has been 55 years since & still discussed, a movie (Glory Road) has been made & obviously had other social & racial implications. That was a very hard pill to swallow for me personally. Rupp’s Runts is still my all time favorite team! As for sheer excitement the 92 game was probably the winner/loser….

  7. SuperTroy18
    11:56 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

    I think had Hayward’s shot gone in when Butler barely lost to Puke, it would’ve taken the top spot. The Laettner shot was such a perfect (imperfect for us,) storm that it is the best highlight of March Madness. I mean, they show Hayward’s shot anyway each year. If he’d actually hit it, it would’ve supplanted Laettner’s. Because it didn’t go in, they lost. That’s why it would’ve been bigger. An inch shorter, and maybe that goes down as the greatest of all time…

  8. katmandue2you
    11:58 am April 5, 2021 Permalink

    I think the primary reason the 92 game is ranked as greatest game ever isn’t just the ending but the extreme high level of play from beginning to end. It was a basketball game played by two teams playing error free basketball.

    • The Original WTF Guy
      12:59 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

      I agree. The shot itself was in some ways pretty pedistrian compared to some we have seen. It’s the fact that you had one of the all time great teams having to stand toe-to-toe for 15 rounds.

      Gonzaga hit a 35 footer to be an 11 seed.

    • just a guy
      2:08 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

      Agreed 100%

  9. just a guy
    2:07 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

    If Gonzaga wins it all that shot means a lot, but if he missed it they would have gone to OT again. The Villanova shot at the buzzer to win the championship, if missed would have lost is the greatest shot of all time, the Duke UK 1992 game was the greatest game of all time that happened to end with one of the top 3 endings of all time.

    • just a guy
      2:12 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

      Watch that game. There was stomping on players, blood, coaches yelling at each other. The play was fierce. Duke was the NCAA basketball Goliath and UK was 3 years removed from probation. That game was amazing from tip to finish. The shot itself wasn’t great, but that shot demoralized UK and it’s fan base. A shot we have never gotten over. UCLA vs Gonzaga? Most people already have forgotten they played. Just another game.

  10. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
    2:39 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

    Here’s the full 1978 game when we beat Duke for the natty (I had no idea at the time I would come to sports hate them so):

    • just a guy
      2:47 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

      You only hate them because of the 1992 shot. Which is why it’s still the best. It wasn’t just a shot, it spurred a rivalry

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      3:00 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

      You are correct sir. I actually (*blush*) liked them somewhat before that because they had become a thorn in UNCheat’s side. lol

  11. nousername
    3:36 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

    The test of time will leave UK/Duke at the top for the reasons mentioned here.
    The Woods shot itself was miraculous. The players involved make it better as well; Duke’s loaded team, our probation left-overs. But really just the cinematic quality of Hills’ pass and Latener’s weird, unhurried dribble-gather and turn-around shot to complete a perfect shooting game for one of the most unlikeable personalities in college basketball history.

  12. mkerrick09
    10:27 pm April 5, 2021 Permalink

    I disagree. I think Sean woods shot goes down in history if the Laettner shot doesn’t go in. Then we are watching that shot instead every year. I do agree about the 98 game getting no respect though.