by Heather C. Watson
If we could turn back the clock, most of us have one thing that we’d do differently. We’d jump in the TARDIS or the DeLorean, we’d travel back in time, and we’d rectify our one big regret. We’d go to a better school, date a different person, or avoid bangs altogether. We’d take that flight to Vegas or pop for the good tickets. We’d go for it. Now, this kind of thinking is the stuff of cheesy advertisements, bad science fiction and even worse Cher songs, but it also touches a nerve with so many of us because, deep-down, we all wish we had one do-over.
That infamous UK-Duke game in which Blue Devil Christian Laettner stomped Wildcat Aminu Timberlake’s chest and was, astonishingly, not ejected from the game. The same game in which Laettner went on to sink a 17 foot buzzer-beater for the 104-103 Duke win. We’ve relived it a thousand times in the nineteen years since it occurred. We’ve second-guessed the officials, the coaches and the players. We’ve tried hard to forget it, but those efforts haven’t been helped by the fact that that CBS rolls out the footage of that horrible shot every season for their March Madness montage. Nearly twenty years later, we still just can’t get away from that damned shot. Next Monday night, however, Kentucky fans will get a do-over of sorts as Laettner, perhaps the most reviled man in the history of UK basketball rivalries, will walk into Rupp Arena. One can almost hear the movie-trailer announcer’s tagline: “This time, it’s personal.”
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While the Big Blue All-Stars tour has many corporate sponsors, including State Farm Insurance and Wildcat alum Jeff Sheppard’s 15inc, this unique showcase has been made possible by the NBA lockout. As former Wildcats have faced an uncertain season in professional basketball, frustratingly shut out from playing the game that they love, they’ve returned to Lexington for conditioning and training. They’ve availed themselves of Coach Cal’s hospitality and the University’s first-rate facilities. And, they’ve had more than a little free time on their hands. The All-Star tour has made constructive use of that time, taking fan favorites like DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, and Chuck Hayes on the road to small Kentucky towns such as Hazard and Maysville to compete in exhibition matches against local college teams. The All-Stars have criss-crossed the Commonwealth, dunking on unwitting Junior College players, kissing babies, and signing countless t-shirts. They’ve raised funds for the V Foundation, the cancer research organization established in memory of legendary North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano. And, they’ve allowed Wildcat fans to engage in the ultimate game of armchair coach: Over the years, every Wildcat fan has played the “what if” game, spinning scenarios as far-fetched as “Rondo at the point, setting up Brandon Knight” or “Cousins playing guard.” For a few brief hours, in tiny high school gyms across the state, we’ve watched in delight as these wild fantasies came true.