This years NCAA basketball championship tournament provided plenty of madness, but one story seemingly made an impact more than any other. With 6:43 left in the first half of Louisville Universitys Elite Eight match-up with Duke University, Louisvilles Kevin Ware jumped up to contest a three pointer by Dukes Tyler Thornton. When he landed, his right leg snapped halfway in between his ankle and knee.
By the time he fell to the ground the bone was protruding six inches out of his skin. Immediately hush filled the arena as teammates stood in horror at the sight.
I literally almost threw up, Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino said. I just wanted to get a towel to get it over that. But all the players came over and saw it.
Players and fans alike stared in disbelief at a sight no one expected to ever see on a basketball court. Some fell to the floor weeping, while others simply prayed.
I didnt ever think in a million years I would ever see something like that, Louisville guard Russ Martin said.
The injury was so bad that nearly all broadcasting and internet sites refused to show video of the event.
What was a gruesome injury instantly became the rallying point for the Cardinals, as they turned a sluggish start to an 85-63 win over Duke. Two wins later, the Cardinals were crowned national champions.
As bad as the injury was, it clearly was the motivation for Louisville to win it all for Kevin. Every timeout during the Duke game the players would tell each other, send Kevin home. This was in reference to the fact that Kevin Ware grew up close to Atlanta, Georgia, the site of this years Final Four.
When Kevin went down, it was devastating for all of us, Louisville point guard Peyton Siva said. We just came together and Kevin Ware really was the reason why we pulled this game out.
After defeating Wichita State in the Final Four, the Cardinals found themselves in a tight contest with the Michigan Wolverines, a team just as talented, if not better, than themselves. Michigan point guard Trey Burke was lighting up the scoreboard and proving that the Wolverines were not intimidated by the big stage. The team backed up his play by extending their lead by as much as 12 late in the first half of the title game. Louisville was running out of options, and they needed a spark.
With 5:09 left and Louisville up 67-64, Peyton Siva was fouled on what appeared to be a clean block. He made both free throws sparking a 7-2 run that gave them a 10 point lead of their own. From then on the Cardinals were in complete control. Luke Hancock was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, scoring 22 points and sinking all five of his three point shot attempts in the final game.
It was clear that Kevin Ware was the only motivation Louisville needed for the championship game. They came out wearing warm ups that had Kevin Wares number five on the back and the words Ri5e to the occasion on the front. Once the game was over, the basketball goal was lowered to allow Ware to cut down the final part of the net, a tradition for any team winning the NCAA national championship.
Anyone who paid attention to this years NCAA basketball tournament knows that this years champions and Wares injury will always be linked. It was a heroic moment brought out of a horrendous tragedy. The Louisville Cardinals reaction to a devastating injury reminded sports fans why they are still in love with college basketball. By rallying around their fallen comrade, the Cardinals showed those watching that even a terrible injury does not force a team to submit to defeat. No one ever knows when a team will rally around something bad, and turn it into a championship.
Everybody on the team just wanted to step up for him, Siva said. For us to show that focus and that determination, we just tried to do it for him.