In the middle of the second half of the 1993 national title game, Jimmy King picked up a loose ball at about half court and had a clear path to the basket. To say he dunked the ball does not give what transpired justice. Almost simulating the dunk that won Michael Jordan the dunk contest, Jimmy took off from about six inches inside the free throw line and delivered one of the most impressive pressure time dunks I have ever seen. The play was spectacular, and Jason Bossard was celebrating with man-hulk fist pumps as only Jason Bossard could. At that moment I was sure Michigan was going to win the national championship. "One Shining Moment" was about 45 minutes away, and Michigan was going to be holding that trophy.
The last 30 seconds of that game was an ominous foreshadow of things to come. I should have taken it as more than a fluke, more than a random occurence. For a Michigan fan, the Fab Five was literally too good to be true. For a school and an athletic program that prides itself on substance over form, the Fab Five brought them both together in a flash of brilliance, a wild ride where every game brought about a different roller coaster and all you could do was sit back for the ride. If it seems to good to be true it probably is, and the Fab Five was.
The ten years after their departure brought about what, in hindight, I should have known was coming. That renaissance was unnatural. There was something forced and unrealistic about that team, a always loved it, but I never trusted it. It was unbelievable to watch, but as a fan, I always had the feeling that what I was watching was a reality show, something contrived. Memorable, no doubt, but at its core, a figment of the sports imagination. The years that followed confirmed that suspicion, and those memories crumbled, they are still there, but I have trouble identifying whether they are good or bad memories from a time where I truly worshiped those kids in the maize and blue.
It was my expectation that my perception of Michigan basketball would be forever tarnished by the realization that I had been tricked. A naive 14 year old, things had not been what they seemed, and I took it personally. I still watched, I still read box scores, I wanted them to win, but indifference had long before prevailed over genuine interest. I was just about to turn off the 2011 Michigan State game before Novak went all out spaz freek out on his dazed teammates. The team that went into that timeout was not the team that came out of it, and the victory that followed was as stunning as it was pure awesomeness. What has followed has been a renaissance of all the excitement that I witnessed 20 years ago, without the lingering doubt that something was amiss, something was out of place. This is legit, and it has been very, very fun.
This team is one for the ages. Possibly not in terms of their capabilities on the court, but there is a genuineness about this team that does not come along often. From its coach to its star, there is regard for each other on and off the floor that makes me proud to be a fan. Special. In a long winter where grey has dominated most of this state, the highlighter "maize" of this team has lit up the state. Take notice, these kids have said, Michigan basketball never went anywhere, it was simply catching its breath.
This team is going to win tonight, because this team is a team that deserves to win. Final Four Saturday has arrived. Hail to the VIctors. Bring this one home fellas.