Last night SDSU was beat on the same court that Arizona won the 1997 national championship. I plastered this across chat boxes all the Thursday morning long and you can read about it at the bottom of this page. If you don’t read that then let me tell you that the playing surface at Viejas Arena is the same one used at the ’97 NCAA Final Four. In case you need a refresher, Arizona won that title. I reminded my friends, “HOLY NAPOLEON COMPLEX. You can’t script this stuff!”
But when I told a third party – a non-Wildcat with no emotional ties to what happened inside the late RCA Dome of Indianapolis in 1997 – I came to realize that the late-90’s was a lifetime ago. Seriously, someone born that year is driving today. A motor vehicle. And the Champions Classic so gloriously hosted on Tuesday didn’t bother to invite Arizona because Mike Bibby.
Arizona has been a terrific basketball school. They’ve danced on par with the elite and they’ve tasted success on an annual basis that few have. But the 1997 title was a long time ago. Much has transpired in the Old Pueblo since I watched the basketball team address fans in the football stadium on a spring afternoon. That was a glorious day and beautiful times.
But that third party highlighted for me that ’97 is approaching a generation ago. Do they snap chat? Arizona was uncomfortably close to being the snap chat of elite basketball programs: a flash genius and gone for eternity. But Sean Miller said yes to Jim Livengood’s pleas.
(And quick aside while we’re on this snap chat analogy. If you’re reading this blog then we are friends and as a friend I encourage you to say ‘yes’ to any offer that ends in billion.)
And so too has Stanley Johnson.
The athletic, competitive, strong, skilled, tough talent out of Mater Dei has declared himself a Wildcat. He joins an already sound 2014 class of Craig Victor and Parker Jackson Cartwright with more on the way. By just about every standard, he’s league bound. A game changer on the scale of Mater Deis before him:
Because that’s why players come to Arizona. It’s why Miller did and what Simon said is the reason you play the game. For two media days now I’ve sat and watched coach after coach, player after player effuse about their forthcoming season. Only Miller and his travel partners (Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson) have used the word “championship.”
The Wildcats are in the midst of a season with the potential to stand on a ladder with scissors, have a Jim Nantz pun thrown at us, and later visit the Obamas. 1997 was a long time ago but it’s imagery is as real as ever. It’s the banner Stanley Johnson and every other kid that’s agreed to Sean was sold on.
When the Aztecs cut last night’s lead to four, with The Show and the rest of Viejas swelling, Aaron Gordon absorbed the harm and dunked. Seats were re-acquired or exited. It was the kind of moment that suggests a team is built for big things. The kind of team and program Stanley Johnson wants to be a part. And wants to build.
Hats and t-shirts.
Basketball games in football stadiums.