Everybody Loves an Underdog
As the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is about to start and people everywhere are scrambling to fill out their brackets, the question inevitably becomes: “where’s the big upset and who becomes the ‘Cinderalla Story’ this year?” There’s always at least one, and they usually gain some casual fans whose teams are already eliminated or from people who simply want to see the unbelievable happen.
Back in 1990, things were a little different. EVERYONE wanted Loyola Marymount University to achieve the impossible: an 11 seed from a mid-major conference going all the way to the final four.
It wasn’t just because they were an 11 seed. It wasn’t just because they were exciting to watch (coach Paul Westhead’s frenetic run and gun style led the LMU Mountain Lions to be the highest scoring team in Division I at 122.4 points a game – almost 40 points per game higher than the league average).
It was because we ALL could barely catch our breaths or keep from getting noticeably choked-up as Bo Kimble took his first free throw of each game with his opposite (left) hand in a gesture to honor his fallen friend and teammate, Hank Gathers, who collapsed and died on the court only days before hand in LMU’s conference tournament.
I still get choked up watching these clips. I can’t barely imagine being ably to play if I had just lost my best friend. But, not only did Kimble make the shots honoring his lifelong friend, he seemingly willed his team to victory in the first three rounds of tournament (and overcoming the loss of Gathers’ 29 ppg); beating New Mexico State, Michigan, and Alabama before ultimately losing to an equally high-flying, fast-paced UNLV Running Rebels squad in the Elite 8 by a score of 131-101
From ESPN’s 30 for 30: The Guru of Go
Kimble went on to have a successful NBA career. It was expected that his friend Hank, who was also a highly sought after prospect, would do the same. That fateful day in March, 1990, reminds us all that: a) we don’t always what we want and b) there’s more important things in life than basketball. But during that tournament in 1990, watching Bo Kimble and LMU play basketball was exactly the heart-warming, life-affirming story we all needed and were rooting for.