Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The 30 Most Influential NCAA MBB Groups of SLAM’s 30 Years: ‘00 Cincinnati

To have fun SLAM’s thirtieth anniversary, we’re spotlighting the 30 most influential males’s school groups from our previous 30 years. Stats, information and chips aren’t the primary issue right here, it’s all about their contribution to the sport’s cultural material.

For the subsequent 30 days—Monday via Friday— we’ll be unveiling the full listing right here. We’ve additionally received an unique retro collegiate assortment, out now, that pays homage to every squad’s threads. Store right here.

On the flip of the century, the Cincinnati Bearcats had been the workforce that struck an ideal stability of old-school toughness and flash and flare. 

Led by the legendary Bob Huggins, a training maestro well-known for his relentless pursuit of excellence, the 1999-2000 Bearcats epitomized hard-nosed basketball. Huggins, a grasp tactician, instilled in his gamers a defensive prowess and a tangible thirst for victory. 

Their mantra was easy: outwork, outlast, outplay. And so they did so with ferocity, leaving opponents quaking of their kicks. However it wasn’t simply their on-court prowess that captured the creativeness of followers throughout the nation. It was the colourful solid of characters of this storied workforce. From the towering presence of Naismith Participant of the 12 months Kenyon Martin to the sharpshooting finesse of DerMarr Johnson, the Bearcats boasted a roster brimming with expertise and persona. 

Martin and Johnson would finally declare for the NBA draft. The New Jersey Nets picked Martin with the primary choose, and Atlanta scooped Johnson with the sixth. 

On the courtroom, the dynamic duo and the remainder of the workforce donned white and crimson jerseys that drooped beneath their knees, repping the style developments of the occasions with gusto. Stamped with the Bearcats’ iconic bear claw emblem, headbands and ankle socks accompanied the workforce’s ensemble on the flip of the century. However it was the reserved attract of the Jumpman emblem and the litany of Air Jordans that catapulted Cincinnati to cultural prominence. The Bearcats had been one among simply 4 packages to introduce Model Jordan to the collegiate ecosystem. Of their outsized jerseys, the gamers strutted, oozing confidence, reflecting the swagger and confidence of gamers who appeared destined for greatness. 

And greatness they achieved. 

With a powerful regular-season document of 29-4, together with a Convention USA regular-season title, the Bearcats bulldozed their method via the competitors, leaving a path of defeated foes of their wake. The workforce’s hardest problem would come close to the top of the season when Martin broke his leg within the C-USA Event quarterfinal recreation towards Saint Louis. 

Regardless of the heartbreak of dropping the nation’s then-biggest school phenomenon, the Bearcats rallied collectively, sending out a transparent message: even with out their high performer, the workforce has what it takes to offer any workforce a run for its cash. They marched into the NCAA Event because the second seed, nonetheless decided to achieve the promised land. 

The Bearcats stomped into the primary spherical of the event, blowing out UNC Wilmington. Their championship hopes, nevertheless, can be reduce quick in heartbreaking style by Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes upset the Bearcats in a detailed recreation within the event’s second spherical. 

It was a bitter capsule to swallow, however the workforce’s legacy of resilience and willpower would endure for generations to come back. Over 20 years later, persons are nonetheless left questioning how a lot larger this workforce may have been if it weren’t for Martin’s grotesque leg harm.

As the ultimate buzzer sounded on the ‘99-2000 season, the Bearcats might not have ended the season the place they needed to, however that they had received the hearts of followers nationwide. Theirs was a season crammed with triumph and adversity, highs and lows, however via all of it, they nonetheless loved a 29-4 season, going undefeated in Convention USA. And when Martin was wholesome, they boasted the No. 1 rating within the AP ballot for 12 weeks through the season. 

Steeped in a wealthy custom of tenacity and ferocity on the courtroom, this workforce etched its title into the hearts of followers and the historical past ebook of hooping legends.

Pictures by way of Getty Photographs.

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