The Jayhawk Legacy

The Shot heard round the world: Chalmers’ magic highlights Jayhawks’ third championship

There was much rejoicing for the boys in crimson and blue after winning the NCAA championship.
There was much rejoicing for the boys in crimson and blue after winning the NCAA championship. deulitt@kcstar.com

Here are the stories published in The Kansas City Star the day after Kansas won the 2008 NCAA national championship with a 75-68 overtime victory against the Memphis Tigers in San Antonio.

Joe Posnanski: Mario’s shot is one for the ages

SAN ANTONIO — Mario Chalmers sat on the podium in the moments after the game, and he wore his “National Champions” hat backward, he had a sort of dazed smile on his face, and he did not know. He could not know. He’s history now.

“I was able to get a good look at it,” he would say.

No, he did not know. He could not know. Chalmers made the shot. Kansas came back from nine down in the final furious seconds. Kansas beat Memphis 75-68 in overtime. The Jayhawks are national champions.

Kids 50 years from now will be shooting the Chalmers shot in driveways from Pittsburg to St. Francis, from Liberal to Hiawatha, from Cuba to Dodge City to Chanute. Grandparents in Wichita will call their grandchildren in Olathe to talk about what they were feeling when Chalmers took that shot, the way the ball arced, the way it fell. Farmers in Cuba and teachers in Salina and doctors in Garden City will talk about the shot forever.

There were precisely 43,257 fans in the Alamodome on Monday night to watch Kansas win its first championship in 20 years, but as time goes by there will be 100,000, then 200,000, then a million who will say they were here.

No, Mario Chalmers could not know because he’s young. And when you’re young, you live in the moment. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Chalmers was not feeling the pressure of history when he fired the shot. He never could have made it then. Kansas was trailing by nine points with barely 2 minutes left. Memphis had taken all the intensity and will and ferocity that Kansas had to give, and then the Tigers pulled away. Up nine with about 2 minutes left? Over.

“A lot of us thought the game was over,” Kansas’ Darnell Jackson would say.

“I thought we were national champs,” Memphis coach John Calipari would say.

How did the comeback happen? It was a blur. A flurry. There was a huge steal by Kansas’ gutsy Sherron Collins, followed by a three-pointer. There were some missed Memphis free throws. There were a couple of big shots by Kansas’ Darrell Arthur.

Kansas coach Bill Self was on the sideline, and he was shouting to his players, “You got to believe, “ which is as corny a thing as a coach could say, but he could not think of anything else. Nobody could keep up with all the emotions of those final 10 seconds. Memphis’ Derrick Rose had two free throws with the Tigers up two — if he made them both, then the Tigers would win. He missed the first. He made the second. Calipari told his players to foul so Kansas would not get a three-point shot.

And Memphis’ players tried to foul. They hammered Collins.

“I think I got fouled, actually,” Collins said.

But there was no whistle. Collins managed to flip the basketball back to Chalmers. Memphis’ incredible Rose was in his face.

“I was right there, “ Rose would say.

But Chalmers got the shot up. Reporters always ask, “What were you thinking,” when trying to relive moments like this one. And the answer never satisfies because to make a great play, to hit the final shot, to make the last putt, to drill the game-winning hit, you can’t be thinking. Chalmers could not catch the ball and think about 20 years of frustration for Kansas basketball.

He could not think about the 1997 Kansas team, maybe the best in school history, and how those Jayhawks lost a heartbreaker to Arizona. He could not think about Nick Collison, one of the most complete players in the history of the school, who could not make his free throws in a championship game against Syracuse.

He could not think about a team that had two All-Americans -- including the peerless Paul Pierce -- that lost to Rhode Island in the second round. He could not think that Kansas — which belongs at the final table with the greatest basketball schools, with Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina and Indiana — had won only one national championship in the last 56 years.

No, of course not. That’s the beauty of youth. You don’t think. You play. You live. Chalmers caught the pass, and he went up, and the ball felt great coming out of his hands. “I thought it was going in,” he would say.

As we all watched the ball in the air, we knew it was history. We could tell.

As the ball swished through, everything in the game changed. Memphis’ Joey Dorsey said he dropped to his knees (”I knew we were ready to cut down the nets, “ he would say). Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts watched the rotation of the ball, and his head sagged. Bill Self, who had this crazy feeling, felt his heart beat in his chest.

The shot tied the game. But it really won the game. Memphis had no chance in overtime, not after that shot. When the game ended, when the confetti dropped, when the Jayhawks hugged, Memphis players walked slowly off the court. They knew that this loss would stay with them forever. The losing team always feels history first.

And the Jayhawks jumped around and cried and hugged.

“Are you aware of the historical significance of the shot you made tonight?” someone asked Chalmers.

“I mean,” Mario would say with a smile, “it was a big shot for me.”

Jason Whitlock: Danny’s miracle deserves another

SAN ANTONIO — That’s how you win it all, exorcise the demons and baptize a new era of greatness.

You do it with an unforgettable rally, a stunning three-pointer and with your most famous and infamous coaching alum sitting in the stadium, cheering you on and sporting a Jayhawk sticker.

Dorothy said it best: “There’s no place like (Kansas),” and now maybe Roy Williams and everybody else in the college basketball world realizes it, too.

Five years from heartbreak, feelings of betrayal and ruin, the Kansas Jayhawks are the kings of college basketball, winning their third NCAA title Monday night with a pulsating 75-68 overtime victory against the Memphis Tigers.

On the 20th anniversary of Danny Manning and the Miracles, Mario Chalmers’ miracle three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation rescued the Jayhawks, culminated a furious 130-seconds rally from a nine-point hole and sent the championship spiraling into an extra session.

The Jayhawks were dead, down 60-51 with 2 minutes, 12 seconds to play and in desperate need of several miracles. They got a few along the way.

It really started when the refs correctly changed Memphis freshman Derrick Rose’s apparent three-point basket to a two during a TV timeout with a little less than 4 minutes left in regulation.

That point would obviously prove to be critical. So would Memphis’ three missed free throws in regulation’s final 16 seconds. All season, basketball experts predicted the Tigers’ free-throw-shooting woes would bite them.

When Chris Douglas-Roberts and Rose failed to extend Memphis’ lead to two possessions by missing a combined three of four freebies, it cracked the door for Chalmers’ heroics. When the Tigers failed to foul a Jayhawk and send Kansas to the line for two free throws, Memphis opened the door wide for a game-tying, miracle three-pointer.

Chalmers walked through that door, unspooling a floating rainbow from the top of the key.

It was good when it left his hand. It was great when it tickled the bottom of the net. And it became a permanent part of Kansas history when the Jayhawks rode its momentum to a six-point advantage halfway through overtime.

“We got the ball into our most clutch player’s hands, and he delivered,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.

All of the Jayhawks delivered on Monday night.

Darrell Arthur scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Brandon Rush dropped in 12 points and chased Douglas-Roberts all evening. Sherron Collins nailed a huge three late in regulation, passed out six assists and stole three balls. Darnell Jackson produced eight points and eight rebounds. Russell Robinson pestered Rose into a miserable first-half performance.

Chalmers did a little bit of everything, scoring 18, dishing out three assists and grabbing four steals. He was chosen the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. He deserved it — on the big shot alone.

Self deserves some praise, too. He kept his team calm, confident and aggressive when it trailed by nine points and the game looked decided. The Jayhawks used their timeouts wisely and fouled at the right time in mounting their comeback.

There will be a lot of talk about Memphis’ collapse and John Calipari’s coaching blunders.

“I take full responsibility,” Calipari said in the aftermath. “When you’re up seven (really nine) ... you’re supposed to win that game. We were fouling late, and the kid got away from Derrick so he couldn’t get to him to foul him, and when he did get to him, knocked him to the floor and they just didn’t call it. I understand why. And then they make a tough shot.

“Overtime, they kind of beat us down. I didn’t sub a whole lot because I was trying to win the game at the end. I didn’t give Chris enough sub. I didn’t give Antonio enough sub ... I’m proud of them. I’m disappointed in myself. I look at that and say, ‘We should have won that game.’”

Nope. Kansas was the better team. The Jayhawks controlled the entire first half and led by five at the break. The game got away from them for a stretch during the second half. But Kansas should’ve won in regulation.

Ed Hightower’s officiating crew swallowed its whistle down the stretch. Collins got fouled hard going to the basket on a fast break late in the game. No call. Douglas-Roberts should’ve been called for a technical foul after he missed his two free throws late. He slammed the ball to the floor, sending the ball skyrocketing into the air. Hightower chose to talk to Douglas-Roberts rather than T him up.

The right team won this game. Once Collins’ knee got healthy at the end of the regular season, the Jayhawks were the best team in college basketball. They proved it this weekend, demolishing a North Carolina team everyone thought was the best in the land and upending a Memphis team that had a chance to win a record number of games.

Kansas is king. And with its third NCAA title, storied history and a young, ascending coach, it has a chance to join the super elite.

Worth the wait: KU is No. 1

SAN ANTONIO — Mario Chalmers began the memory erasing. With Kansas trailing by three in the national championship game, Chalmers fired off a three-pointer with two seconds left. It swished, buying the Jayhawks five more minutes.

Sayonara, Syracuse in 2003.

You remember that one, right? Syracuse’s Hakim Warrick blocked KU guard Michael Lee’s three-pointer at the buzzer, and KU lost another heartbreaker in the game that counted most. But that’s all forgotten now. On Monday night, Jayhawks fans from here to there got to heal two decades’ worth of disappointment.

Kansas 75, Memphis 68, in overtime.

The Jayhawks scored the first six points of the overtime period and shocked the youthful, resilient Tigers to win the school’s third NCAA basketball championship.

Twenty years ago, they won it with one man, Danny Manning, taking a leading role. This year, they wear the crown thanks to a cast of characters so unselfish they evolved over a five-month season into the very definition of team.

The greatest 20-year period in Kansas basketball history now has a bookend for its 1988 title. That means freedom from past demons.

Good-bye, Arizona ’97. See you later, Rhode Island ’98. Nice knowing you, Bucknell and Bradley. The Jayhawks relieved themselves of their “choker” label and rewarded a diehard legion of fans yearning for a title.

You see, it had to be this year. You knew that on May 24, 2007, when Brandon Rush tore his right ACL in a pickup game in Kansas City while preparing for the NBA’s pre-draft camp in Orlando, Fla. Rush said he would not have returned to KU if not for the injury.

He was emotional in Bill Self’s office the next day, wondering what the future would hold for him. Would he ever be the same? Would he ever get to accomplish his dream of playing professionally? Self’s heart went out to Rush, but KU’s coach knew that his 2007-08 team just got a lot better.

When “Late Night at the Phog” rolled around in early October, there was Rush after four months of rehab, wearing a suit and dancing on that right knee. It was the most highly-scrutinized dance number in “Late Night” history, to be sure.

“Late Night” also introduced KU’s five-man senior class. The year before, when KU lost in the Elite Eight to UCLA, there were no seniors. Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun were a part of Self’s first recruiting class, and they had stuck it out until the very end.

Yes, the season had arrived — finally. Rush returned for the third game, and KU bounded out to a 20-0 record. Ranked No. 2 in the country behind these same Memphis Tigers, there was already talk of an undefeated regular season for the Jayhawks.

Not so fast. KU lost to Kansas State on Jan. 30 and then lost two more games on the road in February. The Jayhawks were no longer in the driver’s seat for a Big 12 regular-season title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But that’s when Kansas’ seniors called a players-only meeting, which took place on Feb. 24, the day after the loss to the Cowboys. The Jayhawks aired their frustrations over chicken wings and sandwiches. They haven’t lost since.

KU rallied for its fourth straight regular-season league title, owned the Sprint Center for its third-straight Big 12 tournament title and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional.

When the brackets came out, it felt like ’88 all over again. Kansas would start in Omaha, Neb., and then play the second weekend in Detroit. The 20-year anniversary had made this year feel special from the beginning. It was hard to fathom that KU hadn’t won a title since then, especially with the four Final Four appearances. So it had to be this year, with this group of seniors.

The personality of this team had been evolving for three years. Self had recruited six McDonald’s All-Americans in three years, and four were on the roster — Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Darrell Arthur and Cole Aldrich.

Throw Rush into the equation, and how do you make everybody happy? It was simple. Self trained them to defend first, to look at the other team’s stat lines to gauge their performance — not their own.

Kansas played as unselfishly as any team in the country.

That balance did it for KU on Monday night against two dynamite players from Memphis — Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Jayhawks were led by Arthur’s 20 points and got 18 points from Chalmers, 12 from Rush and 11 from Collins.

J. Brady McCollough

Joy in Jayhawk nation: National championship comes in overtime for a team that Bill Self trained to play in a selfless style

SAN ANTONIO — Kansas coach Bill Self wasn’t going to become another sad Jayhawk statistic. He called a timeout late in the second half and gathered his team around him.

“This is the last time y’all are going to lace them up together, “ Self told them. “How do you want to leave on the court? Do you want to leave champions or do you want to leave losers?”

The Jayhawks had a resounding answer for Self: It would be champions.

Mario Chalmers nailed an improbable three-pointer with 2 seconds left to tie the game at the end of regulation. It was all Kansas after that as the Jayhawks scored the first six points of overtime and defeated Memphis 75-68 in the NCAA championship game.

The Jayhawks shocked the youthful and resilient Tigers to win the school’s third NCAA title, its first since 1988 when Danny Manning and the Miracles upset Duke and Oklahoma in Kansas City. After Monday night, kids all over Kansas will hear tales of Chalmers and the Comeback Kids.

“You couldn’t have written it any better,” KU senior Russell Robinson said.

Twenty years ago, they won it with one man, Manning, taking a leading role. This year, they wear the crown thanks to a cast of characters so unselfish they evolved over a five-month season into the very definition of team.

The greatest 20-year period in Kansas basketball history now has a bookend for its ’88 title. That means freedom from past demons.

Good-bye, Arizona ’97. See you later, Rhode Island ’98. Nice knowing you, Bucknell and Bradley. The Jayhawks relieved themselves of their “choker” label and rewarded a diehard legion of fans.

Chalmers’ game-tying three-pointer began the memory erasing.

Sayonara, Syracuse 2003.

All of it was forgotten when Chalmers’ high, arching three swished to the roar of the crowd in San Antonio’s Alamodome.

“He was born for moments such as this,” said Chalmers’ mother, Almarie.

On Monday night, Jayhawks fans from here to there got to heal two decades’ worth of disappointment.

The 2007-08 season truly began last May 24, when Brandon Rush tore his right ACL in a pickup game at home in Kansas City while preparing for the NBA’s pre-draft camp in Orlando, Fla. Rush said he would not have returned to KU if not for the injury.

Self’s heart went out to Rush, but KU’s coach knew that his team just got a lot better.

When “Late Night at the Phog” rolled around in early October, there was Rush after four months of rehab, wearing a suit and dancing on that right knee. It was the most highly-scrutinized dance number in “Late Night” history, to be sure.

“Late Night” also introduced KU’s five-man senior class. The year before, when KU lost in the Elite Eight to UCLA, there were no seniors. But Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun were a part of Self’s first recruiting class, and they stuck it out until the end.

Kansas bounded out to a 20-0 record. Ranked No. 2 in the country behind these same Memphis Tigers, there was already talk of an undefeated regular season for the Jayhawks and the possibility of these teams meeting down the road.

But then KU lost to Kansas State on Jan. 30 and twice more on the road in February. The Jayhawks were no longer in the driver’s seat for a Big 12 regular-season title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s when the senior Jayhawks called a players-only meeting on Feb. 24, the day after the loss to Oklahoma State. The players aired out their frustrations over chicken wings and sandwiches. They haven’t lost since.

When the NCAA Tournament brackets came out, it felt like ’88 all over again. The reminders were there, staring Kansas in the face. It had to be their year.

On Monday, as the seniors hugged and held the NCAA trophy, it didn’t seem quite real.

“I’m a little overwhelmed right now, “ said Self, who said after the game he would not take a call from his coachless alma mater, Oklahoma State. “I’m totally humbled to have an opportunity to coach where I coach.”

In the end, Self wouldn’t let this special group give up.

“I didn’t think it was over,” he said. “I just thought, ‘You know, we can do this.’ ... And we caught a break. But I never thought it was dead. I never did.”

J. Brady McCollough

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