I’m on YouTube and it remembers me. It knows I’ve typed “Gus Johnson’s Best Calls” before and now it’s got another video titled Morris Winner vs. Oklahoma State it wants me to watch. It says Recommended For You right below the video. For me? Dude. That’s so thoughtful. I resist my inner Ron Effing Swanson telling me to chuck my computer into a nearby dumpster and I click. The YouTube rabbit hole is a seductive temptress that I cannot resist because she’s gorgeous but she’s also got, like, a great personality. And she’s really smart and sweet and fun and stuff. I really think you two will hit it off.
It’s March and this is the time of the year where everything begins to get a little mad in the world of basketball so let us revisit what earth was dealt on December 10, 2005. This was college, not the NBA. I know we don’t speak on college ball here. That’s mainly because we know nothing about it. There’s some NBA to this moment, though. Not that I know about that either.
This was the furthering of a maybe-if-we’re-lucky legend. This was outrageous claims. This was screaming. This was more screaming. This was Gus Johnson at his Gusiest and Bill Raftery hitting notes only ever reached previously by dog whistles.
The shot and the game rocketing us back to a foreign land where Adam Morrison is being giddily compared to Larry Bird and Seattle still had a team. Look at KeyArena throwing seven different kinds of smoke.
Just so much fun.
It’s wildly considered among the younger generation of sports fans that Gus Johnson is the alpha and omega of announcers that eviscerate and drop the mic when it comes to buzzer beating big ole ballsy shots like this one. In no way, shape, or form does he disappoint here.
This is your prototype Gus scream. This is what they will teach in classes some day. The shot is made and so is his day and he just shrieks for joy because what else can you do sometimes? He’s gotten to do some Knick games in the past but college ball is his home. If the Kansas State – Xavier game (You know the one. Jacob Pullen and his chin/neck beard vs. Jordan Crawford in the last game Crawford was ever truly relevant) in 2010 was Gus’s The Great Gatsby, then this game was his The Other Side of Paradise.
Nobody screams in shock like Gus screams in shock. Nobody. Put him in Paranormal Activity 27 or whatever number they’re on now and you’ll have box office records on your hands that’ll make Robert Pattinson weep in Daniel Radcliffe’s pasty, white, overly emotional arms.
There’s untapped rage here. Make it a three, he says. We will, Gus. What a game, he says. True story.
And it must be mentioned. Larry Bird, he says, maybe. The oversized-slightly-slower-than-he-should-be-white-guy-who-can-shoot-it-a-little-bit-so-we-automatically-say-he’s-the-second-coming-of-The-Legend-but-dude-come-on-with-that-narrative-that-drowns-the-player-before-they-even-get-a-chance-to-start-swimming-in-the-league curse that falls upon all those types of dudes. I don’t blame Gus, though. A lot of people were thinking Morrison was the second coming of The Hick. It’s his job to take our emotions to the furthest extreme we’ll allow them to go. He’s just trying to get us to that goodness on the happy scale.
Regardless, there is no greater man to lead you through a moment like this. Gus finds rest in pandemonium.
Crunch time you go to your best player, Gus tells us. You go to your best play-by-play man, too, Gus.
Make no mistake, though. Despite Gus’s brilliance, the star of this broadcast is Bill Raftery. The man who originally requested for Jerome to send it in unleashes himself upon the audience because in that moment he forgot they existed.
This is euphoria for Raftery. A young kid making a shot that mattered when everybody in the gym knew he was going to take it and he was just stone cold when he did it. Iced out and freezing and chilly and Raftery can do nothing but unleash a moan of approval. An ooooweeee of sorts.
Onions, he shouts at the twenty-two second mark. Like he had no other choice. Like God himself was moving in him and formed his lips to speak those words. There was no Jim Nantz-ish pre-meditation to this (apologies to Jimmy as I do love you). This was a shot and a reaction of pure, straight joy. Onions. He’s speaking on testicular fortitude for the home schooled out there. Cojones. Balls. Big, swinging Pacific Northwest-y balls. The kind Sam Cassell would nod at and be all, I see you young fella. Doing the bull dance. Feeling the flow. Working it.
Throughout Gus’s picture painting you hear periodic yelps from Raftery. He can’t contain himself. There’s so much noise in KeyArena and he has to join in because there’s magic in the air and magic is delicious.
After a cackle, around the fifty-five second mark he goes into what happened. I’ve transcribed it below because this is America and it’s not too late to add this to the Constitution.
Look at the clock and when you’re sleepless in Seattle, why not get…a little kiss? Gus, oh. Major Onions. All on his own. Look at the contesting. Oh, what a smooch. Ooooo. Wow. This kid is extraordinary. And watch the contesting, Gus. It’s not like he’s standing still. Two defenders…knowing…look at that. Oh. Look at that, the reaction.
Walt Whitman can go chill in traffic somewhere. This is poetry.
The court, though. It’s weird to look at that green and yellow now. This was before Clay Martin. Before Presti blew up the squad. Before Durant and Westbrook. Before Starbucks dropped the ball.
This was a Supersonics squad with Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Flip Murray, Vlad Rad, Nick Collison, even Mateen Cleaves. They finished third in the Northwest Division that year under the guidance of the ever able Bob Weiss and Bob Hill, both with names that sound like they’re every dad you ever grew up with.
No playoffs for them that year. Not really a ton of hope. The season effectively becoming nothing more than a wash. They were in the death chair of the league. Mediocrity. A little below .500. Good enough to not have a great draft pick. Bad enough to not make the playoffs. That arena, though, rocked. The place had energy to it. There’s great vibes here, a spirit to the proceedings within the lines that made you know that those in the stands understood there was some weight to this.
Morrison brought with him the boom and those within the stands reciprocated. You do this for us and we’ll make cameras shake. Just one shot in front of the country to further the scowl on Eddie Sutton’s face. We’ll make it sound like Jericho when they bring the trumpets out.
Now comes the time where I tell you because of full disclosure that I still own and wear with great regularity a Gonzaga basketball hoodie. The hoodie strings frayed from all the nervous and bored chewing I’ve done over the years. I got the sweatshirt for Christmas in 2005. Adam Morrison was the sole reason it was on my Christmas list.
The floppy top and the stringy mustache and tube socks got a lot of play in those days. Before people wondered if Anthony Davis would shave, they wondered if Morrison would. He was the alternative. The sexy choice because he wasn’t sexy at all. The indie band that your cool friend liked that just so happened to release one of the greatest albums in history in 2005. A whole box set of hits. Morrison was that box set.
He wasn’t imagined and forged under the tutelage of sneaker companies, Calipari’s hair gel, or big state school PR departments. He was himself. A lot took that. Some left it. Either way, he gave no cares.
He posed in Sports Illustrated on his couch below a Rage Against The Machine poster. Rage.
I’m not going to talk about where Morrison is now because, frankly, it has been reported on by people MUCH smarter than me and I have nothing helpful to add. Jordan Conn, a writer for Grantland, wrote a great piece with a section on Morrison prior to the beginning of the season you can read here.
I don’t want to talk about now. I want to talk about then. The diabetes he had to deal with and his parents’ reactions to the big shot he just hit. There’s just complete unbridled and unfiltered happiness on their faces. Mom, there, camera around her neck, trying her best to document a game even though she can just pop a VHS in the VCR at the house. Really want to know what Morrison and Mini-Scalibrine, David Pendergraft, are shouting at one another.
There was some griminess to Morrison. A certain talk-to-me-and-I-will-kill-you edge that he played with that year that captured America. Or, at the very least, me. He didn’t make it in the league. He can’t get on anywhere. The last time he played was in Turkey. But who cares. He did that up there and that was fun.
I’m saying. March is coming. The NBA’s about to get fun and so too will college. Find the oooooweeee.