Sunday, March 5, 2017

The all-time best rivalry

This is certainly open to debate as many ferocious rivalries have existed over the years. Michigan/Ohio State, Alabama/Auburn, Celtics/Lakers, Yankees/RedSox, USC/UCLA, the trifecta of Florida/Florida St./Miami, Dems/Reps, FOX/MSNBC, and pretty much anybody that's had the dubious honor of ever having been hauled into divorce court. Yep, they can all get ugly and downright vicious.

But one stands clearly apart, and the statistics are astounding.

Duke/North Carolina men's hoops.

Consider, over the decades, both have won 5 NCAA national championships.

They've now played 98 games against each other and the series stands tied at 49-49.

The mind blower is that over all those 98 games, one team has scored 7605 total points, and the other 7606. Ninety eight games and a measly one point separating them?

Nobody can remember the last time either of them failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. These two schools are excellent every year, and consistently rake in blue chip prep recruits to keep rolling on.

Duke has long had Mike Krzyzewski, Coach K at the helm, and he's among the all-time leaders in victories. Carolina now has Roy Williams, had Dean Smith forever before, and all are sure-fire Hall of Famers that will long be remembered for not only their coaching expertise, but running squeaky clean programs. Nary a hint of scandal over the decades. Admirable indeed.

Duke and UNC have certainly graduated more than their fair share of cagers either by bestowing degrees upon them or to the NBA to become instant millionaires.

Michael Jordan was a Tar Heel. He was loved by many, but hated by many more -- because he kicked so much butt in the NBA. The other guys and their fans no doubt had little fondness for him.

Christian Laettner was a Blue Devil. Somewhere, somebody loved him, but they've yet to come forward. Let's just say dear Chris wasn't the most popular guy, because he could get under the skins of rivals in a big way. Besides, a lot of people hate Christians today. Checked out the Middle East lately?

But between these two basketball dynamos, they committed an unspeakable blunder not long ago.

His name is Steph Curry, and he currently plays for the Golden State Warriors of the NBA.

Once upon a time, Steph grew up in Charlotte, not far from Durham and Chapel Hill where the Dukies and Heels reside -- just a few miles apart themselves.

Steph's daddy Dell played for the Charlotte Hornets.

Steph went to Charlotte Christian high school, where he was all-conference, all-state, and all-around lights out as a prep player.

He has since gone on to become the only unanimously selected MVP of the NBA, first broke the all-time season record for 3-point shots made in a season, broke it again, then absolutely shattered it a third time. Few would doubt he's at least a Top 5 player in the NBA.

So here's the question----

How, tell me HOW, did both Duke and North Carolina miss such a talent when it grew up and played high school hoops in both their proverbial backyards?

They didn't even make him an offer of any scholarship. Instead, Curry wound up at tiny Davidson, another North Carolina college, where he kept lighting it up.

Some say it was because Curry was too skinny. Well gee. When's the last time you saw a fat guy in the NBA not named Barkley?

And just what exactly does "too skinny" mean anyway? Manute Bol, all 7 foot 6 of him, weighed in at maybe 50 pounds, give or take a few. But he did OK for a while. Sadly, he died young at age 47. RIP.

Ever remember hearing of a guy named Chuck Nevitt? He played for a lot of NBA teams, but provided yours truly with a memorable experience one upon a time. The man was 7 foot 5 and a beanpole himself. You don't see guys like that walking around just every day.

So there I was in a grocery store, pushing my cart down the aisle in search of whatever cheap stuff I could find, and I saw a head bobbing along from the NEXT aisle over. Holy twilight zone!! What manner of weirdness is this? So of course I zoomed over there to check it out. It was Nevitt, just casually shopping himself. So I walked right up, looked him square in the navel and asked him if he was who I thought he was.

Probably so, came the response. And I think he signed a can of Del Monte peas for me if I remember correctly. Or maybe it was a box of mac and cheese. Turned out, neither one of us was exactly making mega-bucks at the time in our respective careers, else we wouldn't have been shopping at a cut-rate joint to begin with. But a nice guy, and I'll never forget that. By that time, his sheer height was drawing quite the crowd. Either that, or my dazzling good looks that radiated world-class charm. Yet I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as I quietly slipped away from the adoring masses.

Nonetheless, Duke and Carolina hoops have been and remain not only a hard fought rivalry, but over the decades it just doesn't get any more neck and neck than those two schools.

Parting thought -- And both their colors are blue and white.


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