I started watching the first game with my husband who is a huge basketball fan. I didn’t expect to start following you. I thought it was one pleasant evening. I was wrong. It turned into dozens of evenings glued to the television. I knew I was hooked when I started to schedule my life around basketball.
A couple of months ago, we saw Duje and Frank with their families at the Nitty Gritty. I was star struck. It was so uncharacteristic of me, a person who would rather read a book than watch a game, that I couldn’t even process it. What in the world had happened? How had I transformed into a basketball fan?
It wasn’t even really about the basketball. It was about the team. Quickly you became individuals with personalities. I started to know you. I watched for Josh Gasser to dive into the stands. I loved Frank’s spin as he turned under the basket. I waited for Sam’s three-point sink.
Your antics off the court were fun. We all loved the silly dancing and the photo booth escapades. We shared pictures of you with Indy cars and riding motorcycles with Bucky. All of us, especially this former English teacher, loved Nigel’s vocabulary. Suddenly, press conferences were entertaining.
What captivated me and the rest of Badger Nation the most is that you were a team. You worked together. You talked about each other. You helped each other to look good on the floor and in life. You presented a united front.
You brought our university and our state together at a time when we really needed it. You made us proud. You were coached with class and played with class. You demonstrated strength and maturity and character both in winning and losing.
Last night was heartbreaking. You lost a game, but you haven’t really lost.
If class and character and working together count for anything in this life, and they do, then you have won everything that really matters.