ESPN recently had Samuel L. Jackson and Heat superstar Dwyane Wade pick March Madness brackets. I'm still not sure why, but I'll go with it.
I didn't even pay attention to what badass Samuel L. was saying, because I was kinda distracted by Dwyane Wade's national champ pick. He picked Pitt, which I'm sure might sting to some Panthers fans.
Back in 2003, Wade famously knocked off Pitt in the Sweet 16 with 20 second-half points. In what was one of the games that put Wade on the national stage, he helped usher the Panthers to a second-consecutive exit in that round, and that's part of the reason that we gets so antsy when someone mentions Pitt as potentially going deeper.
Wade's Marquette team put an end to Brandin Knight's career. Chevy Troutman, Donatas Zavackas...we had so much hope in that team. But we weren't getting past Wade.
After the Golden Eagles built their 41-37 lead, Wade scored Marquette's next 10 points with short jumpers, long jumpers, a fastbreak layup and a duck-under 12-foot bank shot to make it 51-44 with 13:57 left.
His most spectacular play came when he drove the baseline, lost his balance when he was bumped and, while falling to the floor, flipped the ball over his shoulder for an improbable basket. He completed the sequence with a free throw for a 60-51 lead with 9:51 to go.
"I don't know what happened," Wade said. "I'm blessed to be able to do the things I can do. There was a little bit of luck right there," he said, laughing.
"I can't say I practiced that."
6 years later, and Wade is dropping 40 on any given night while Knight is an assistant Panthers coach trying to keep his team's minds right on the verge of the '09 tourney. It's weird how many careers were altered with that game that seems so long ago. Just read:
"We're really disappointed. We felt we had a chance to make a run at the Final Four and for the national championship," Coach Ben Howland said. "I'm still basically in shock the season is over."
Now Pitt officials must make a strong effort to keep Howland, who is one of the leading candidates for the job at UCLA.
Associate head coach Jamie Dixon has expressed interest in pursuing the head coaching position at Wright State University, a Division I program in Dayton, Ohio.
Not only did Wade go on to an NBA title and a MVP-like season this year while Knight eventually returned to Pitt, but Ben Howland left for UCLA and three-straight Final Fours while associate Jamie Dixon bypassed Wright State for continued success with the Panthers.
So when Panthers fans see Wade picking Pitt on some feature for ESPN, we aren't just looking at a star endorsement. There's a lot of old feelings that get brought up with something like that.
Video of the pick is below.