We’re all well aware that this coming Sunday, September 11, is a notable and infamous anniversary in the historical annals of this country. It’s a day for reflection of the memory of those who were tragically taken from us that unforgettable morning ten years ago, and each and every American will surely do his and her part to commemorate and remember. The juxtaposition between the harsh and brutal reality of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the fun we have watching, discussing and obsessing over our favorite teams has perhaps never been so poignantly described as ESPN’s Kieran Darcy does in a heartbreaking open letter to his father, Dwight. Darcy’s dad was a senior attorney at the New York Port Authority, and his office was located on the 66th floor of the north tower of the WTC. According to the 2,996 Project, a list of biographies of each of the nearly three thousand lives lost, he had recently experienced foot surgery and was still hobbling around in a cast on that fateful day. There is so much pain and suffering seared into our national consciousness from that Tuesday morning a decade ago, especially among those families like the Darcys who endured such a profound emptiness in the intervening years, but the underlying beauty in what Darcy wrote is that he and his family have been able to pick up the pieces and successfully move on. Kudos to him and all the other 9/11 families who have survived ten years later.
To that end, Dana O’Neil writes about how Rick Pitino and his family have rebuilt their lives after his brother-in-law (wife Joanne’s brother), Billy Minardi, was killed on September 11. This story of Minardi is much more well-known than Darcy’s but no less touching — ten years ago on Labor Day weekend, Pitino and his brother-in-law had spent an unforgettable weekend at Pebble Beach, enjoying the golf, the natural beauty of the Monterey Peninsula, and each other’s company. They were the best kind of best friends — the kind where you’re not afraid to tell the hard and honest truth — and it’s taken every bit of the decade since then for his family to move on to the point where Pitino and his three sons re-enacted the same trip this past Labor Day weekend. Another great story, and we’re sure there are approximately 3,000 of them out there this week.
On a lighter note, Luke Winn checks in with his third and final installment this week about the most efficient players of the last decade of college basketball. Thursday’s piece focused on the best big men of the era, and many of the top seasons are what you might expect — for example, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley’s 1-and-done years in 2007-08. But how about some love for former Oregon forward, Maarty Leunen in 2007-08 (#4 on the list) and everyone’s favorite floppy-haired Catamount, Taylor Coppenrath in 2004-05 (#3 on the list). Winn also takes the time to break out players by their 1-and-done status and by national championship teams. As always, it’s an interesting piece and well worth a few minutes looking through it.
Shabazz Muhammed is widely considered the top player in the Class of 2012, but it appears that at least one fanbase is going to exorbitant lengths to get the 6’6″ wing to stay in Las Vegas and play for the hometown UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. According to this interview with Muhammad on ESPN’s high school basketball blog, he says that one enterprising UNLV fan has offered to name his baby after the rising senior. We have no clue whether such a thing would qualify as a booster providing undue influence, but we’re fairly certain that there’s some legal intern in Indianapolis right now looking at case precedents.
On Thursday evening, LSU unveiled its 900-pound statue of one of the most dominant players in the history of the game, Shaquille O’Neal. The bronze rendering of Shaq with both knees raised while straining the rim, backboard and stanchion with the force of his massive frame after a dunk is an exact doppelganger of what the mind’s eye sees when remembering O’Neal at LSU. An absolute freak of nature, there simply hasn’t been another player with his combination of size, strength, athleticism and skill in the last two decades of basketball. He averaged 22/14 in three seasons as a Tiger, but his legacy as a collegian is somewhat spoiled by a 2-3 NCAA record that didn’t include even a single Sweet Sixteen trip. Still, his individual dominance in college inspired fear in coaches worried that his team might eventually figure out that he was mostly unstoppable in the post. Don’t believe us? Feast your eyes on this highlight package from his time in Baton Rouge.