Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Every two weeks, RTC contributor Joshua Lars Weill (@AgonicaBoss|Email) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the forgotten greatness of La Salle’s Lionel Simmons.
We all want to be remembered. We slog through our days hoping we can create something lasting, something that will point back to our time here and show we were worthy, that we made something of ourselves. Competitive athletes have even more impetus to do so, as it’s a big stitch in the very fabric of what they do. You win to be acknowledged. You win to gain affection. You win, quite honestly, to be remembered.
But what does it take to be remembered? It isn’t enough just to accomplish great things. It’s something more than that. Lots of players reach the pinnacle of the sport but remain afterthoughts once the bright lights are turned off. Too many times, players are remembered solely for the one big thing they did, right or wrong. Maybe it’s the game-winner at the buzzer, or the brain freeze that cost the team at the wrong time. Whole careers of effort are forgotten in lieu of the one big thing.
The 1989-90 NCAA basketball season was chock full of big things, stars and teams who made that season one that elicits a whoosh of nostalgia and basketball awe: powerful UNLV with Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Tark “The Shark”; Georgia Tech’s “Lethal Weapon Three” of Kenny Anderson, Brian Oliver and Dennis Scott; Arkansas’ “40 Minutes of Hell” powered by Todd Day and Lee Mayberry; Duke’s choir boys Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley and the boss choir boy himself, Coach K; LSU’s Chris Jackson and Shaq; and many more.
What most people recall about 1990 is the “Loyola Marymount” story. And indeed it was that season’s NCAA Tournament that immediately followed All-American Hank Gathers’ collapse and death, the event rendering Gathers’ All-American year almost a tragic footnote. Each spring you’ll see at least one clip of Gathers’ childhood friend from Philadelphia and college teammate Bo Kimble bravely playing on, shooting free throws left-handed to honor his fallen comrade. Read the rest of this entry »