Archive for Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jayhawks’ title success rolls over to NBA

Off the Rim column

June 19, 2008

It just keeps getting better to be a Jayhawk fan in 2008.

First, there was the 12-1 football season that ended in an Orange Bowl victory. The bowl victory came against a team that was favored to beat an overrated University of Kansas team.

In the end, the Jayhawks had the better defense and special teams, two areas of the game in which they were supposedly overmatched. I guess those experts don't always know what they are talking about. Kansas controlled the game, although the 24-21 score wouldn't show it.

For a fairly new fan of KU football, like myself, it was a great season, but it took most of my attention away from KU's primary sport, men's basketball. Soon after the Orange Bowl, it was time hunker down and focus on the hardcourt season, which was hyped to be another great one.

The Jayhawks had a few ups and downs during the regular season as a couple of key players recovered from injuries. Then came tournament time and the crimson and blue shined brightly.

Kansas finished the season with 13 straight victories, including the all-important six in the NCAA tournament. KU rallied to beat Memphis in the national title game to earn its first championship since 1988.

After the hours of partying and celebrating, it was hard to think how 2008 could be any grander. Then came Tuesday night.

This wasn't on any college level. There was no crimson and blue. Highly doubtful there was even a Jayhawk shirt on in the building.

It was the crowning moment for a former Jayhawk. After 10 years of playing on a struggling NBA franchise, he was the one celebrating and smiling on the championship podium.

Paul Pierce is now a champion. He is now an NBA Finals MVP. He has now cemented his place in basketball history.

For us Kansas fans, Pierce never needed any of those for us to know how good he was or how much meant to us. We knew he gave us three incredible years in Lawrence and has since given a decade of service as a member of the Boston Celtics.

As a Jayhawk, Pierce competed on three talented teams. His final two years were some of the best-assembled teams in Kansas history. However, he never reached the Final Four.

As a freshman, he helped Kansas to the Elite Eight. His sophomore year was arguably one the Jayhawks' top teams ever, but they bowed out in the Sweet 16 to the eventual champion Arizona. His final game as a Jayhawk would be a sad one as KU lost as the No. 1 seed to Rhode Island in the second round.

Pierce was then drafted 10th by the historic Celtics. Since playing for the storied franchise, he has been a starter every season and a six-time all-star.

In 2002, the Celtics played in the Eastern Conference Finals, but lost to the New Jersey Nets. However, a championship still eluded him. That all changed this season.

In the off season, the Celtics acquired NBA all-stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. As a team, they struggled early on and almost didn't make it out of the first two rounds, but they persevered and found the poise to make it to the NBA finals.

During the past two weeks, Pierce and the Celtics have battled through a couple of injuries and shooting slumps. But in the end, it was the "The Truth," a nickname given to Pierce by NBA center Shaquille O'Neal, that led the charge.

He helped Boston bring home its 17th NBA championship. Those 10 years in Boston were finally paid off with a title and a trophy. He has earned it and I couldn't be happier as a Jayhawk fan.

Now, Mr. Pierce, bring that ring back to Lawrence and celebrate this great 2008.

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