On February 19, 2006, my dad and I went to Durham, North Carolina to watch Duke play the University of Miami. This was my junior year of high school, when the question of college ramped up from curiosity to Major Life Decision. I wasn’t applying to Duke – I had neither the grades nor inclination to do so. But, in addition to visiting Virginia Tech and West Virginia University, my dad and I agreed that watching a game in Cameron Indoor Arena was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Little did we know we’d witness history.
As it turned out, JJ Redick, then a senior at Duke, was close to becoming the all-time leading scorer in Duke history. I’m a KU fan, so I naturally didn’t much care for Redick, or Duke for that matter. Yet, when I entered the arena, the lower levels filled with the familiar sight of blue-clad fans, I couldn’t help but be excited at the prospect of experiencing basketball history first hand. That excitement only escalated after tip-off. As Redick poured on the points, inching closer and closer to thirty, I distinctly remember standing up form my seat every time he launched the ball, waiting, waiting, waiting for the bucket that would nab him the record. When it finally came, off a corner three (if I remember correctly), I raised my arms and cheered with the rest of the Duke faithful.
On Friday, Tom Sunnergren asked me to witness history again, this time of a more dubious sort. The 76ers, on a 26-game losing streak, could etch their names in the annals of futility with one more loss. Tom wanted me to cover the game for Hoop76.
“Who are they playing?” I asked.
“The Pistons,” he replied.
My stomach sank, my heart stopped.
I found it odd Tom would ask me to watch, not to mention write about, this game, since I thought Tom and I were friends, and friends never wish harm upon one another.
Regardless, I acquiesced, because I must be a demented masochist or something.
At 5:30, I armed myself. Beer in one hand, falafel in the other, I prepared for the worst.
It never came.
Hollis Thompson started knocking down threes. Tony Wroten made passes that gave me funny feelings in my pants. Brandon Jennings got ejected, which actually probably should have helped the Pistons because it’s Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith was bad Josh Smith, which I guess, given this season, is redundant. The lead kept blooming and blooming, improbably, impossibly, until at one point the Sixers found themselves up by over 30 points. I kept waiting for the moment this would all go so wrong, and the moment never arrived. ELLIOT WILLIAMS WAS A +16 ON THE NIGHT.
There would be no basketball history tonight. There would instead be joy and relief for a team and and fan-base that has suffered through the arduous yet necessary first year of a rebuilding project.