10 Things We Loved About UConn Shocking The World Vs. Duke In The 1999 NCAA Final

I was 15 years of age when the Connecticut Huskies and the Duke Blue Devils squared off in Tropicana Field to determine who would win the Men's Title, college basketball's highest team honor. I can remember sitting in my bedroom and taking out a notebook from my backpack and creating four different brackets. I can remember my mom yelling at me, asking if I wanted some sweet tea, and I yelled back, "NO MA'AM!" I was focused.

You see, the brackets were going to be unveiled, and what you youngsters don't realize is getting on the internet and just printing these things wasn't the easiest task in the world. Therefore, I sat there watching ESPN, and when 4-seed Arizona was announced to face 13-seed Oklahoma, I sloppily wrote these teams on my paper. (I also wrote "UPSET" next to this game, as Eduardo Najera led OU on two upset bids to make the Sweet 16, but I digress.)

Somehow, through all the madness that is three weeks of the 1999 NCAA Tournament, my scribbled-up bracket came to an end. It was Duke vs. UConn, and it meant that I'd be needing the biggest glass of sweet tea my mother could pour. I wasn't leaving my 19-inch bedroom television for anything (unless my mother asked me to do something). Here's the 10 things I loved about the 1999 NCAA Championship, in no particular order.

I: Elton Brand was supposed to be the future of the power forward position in the NBA.

It seems almost weird to think of Elton Brand in this way now, but 15 years ago the burly power forward was the best basketball player in college basketball. With a mix of power, dexterity and a nose for the ball, no one was checking Duke's No. 42 back in the day. What people forget about the 1999 John Wooden Award Winner is that Brand was somewhat of a pioneer, especially in that era of Duke basketball, as he (along with William Avery and Corey Maggette) were the first Blue Devils to chuck the deuce to Cameron Indoor prematurely. Brand ended up going No. 1 to the Chicago Bulls that year and will probably go down as one of the more underrated players of his generation.

II: Khalid El-Amin was an inspiration for all husky basketball players.

I can't tell you how much confidence I got from watching Khalid El-Amin play basketball. This dude was easily the chubbiest point guard I'd ever seen play college ball in my life, and yet here's this roly-poly dude out here talking crazy, shooting threes with reckless abandon, getting to the rim at will and being an absolute leader for the UConn Huskies. This is something that head coach Jim Calhoun recognized in him immediately as a freshman:

He is (a freshman). He proves that to me at least once a day. (Laughter.) But he is also a very special person. He has got some things about him beyond basketball which I think is on his playing side. His inner will and sense about himself, he gives -- he transmits it to not only his own game and in the game, but his teammates. Not many guys that transmit things. He transmits his own will and personality to our basketball team. That has been very special for us. I think that separates him from just being a terrific basketball player. I think very much an additional bonus for us.

All hail the husky point gawd, who will go down as one of the better floor generals of his era.

III: Augusta, Georgia, was definitely in the building.

The fact that Augusta, Georgia, was able to put two starters in a national championship game has to make any Augusta resident proud. UConn's Ricky Moore and Duke's William Avery both played integral parts in the game, but it was mildly fascinating to see the two of them guard each other at points. These dudes were boys and had known each other since they were youngins. Could you imagine playing against your childhood friend for a national championship? And he's guarding you the whole time? A friendship tested indeed.

IV: I didn't really hate Shane Battier … yet.

He was too young, and I was still lenient on my appreciation of high yella hoopers in college hoops at this point (more on this point upcoming). But by 2001, I hated this man with all my guts. Shane Battier scored 6 points in this game, by the way.

V: The dominance of the Connecticut Huskies women's and men's basketball teams.

Here's the thing. The fellas from Storrs would win titles in 1999 and in 2004 (all hail Ben Gordon) and generally made the world respect UConn as a national power. But being a national power and being a dynastic powerhouse are two different things. The ladies from Storrs would win four titles between the fellas bringing two to Gampel Pavilion in 1999 and 2004, including the Huskies hoop squads (men's and women's) getting the double in '04. (Oh, and for the record … Diana Taurasi is still my boo thang.)

VI: Trajan Langdon's place on the Mt. Rushmore of the all-time great light-skinned college hoopers.

While Khalid El-Amin was my husky brother inspiration, when it comes to seeking a high-yella inspiration, Trajan Langdon was the easiest choice ever. The man arguably had one of the greatest nicknames of all time (The Alaskan Assassin), he was one of the greatest three-point shooters in college basketball history and in 1999 he was the leader of that Duke squad. Many will remember Trajan turning the ball over in the final seconds of this classic contest, but Duke wouldn't have been in the game without his 25 points and his five three-pointers.

VII: Jim "Bugsy" Calhoun and Mike "I kinda hit on Beyonce and got away with it" Krzyzewski are really good at coaching basketball.

1,773 wins … and counting. While Bugsy Calhoun passed the reins to Kevin Ollie and Coach K continues to make his case as the second greatest college basketball coach of all time, in 1999 these two were at the top of the mountain. Coach K would take the loss on this fateful night, but two years later with a revamped roster led by senior Shane Battier, Duke would bring its third national title to Krzyzewskiville. The two best coaches of a generation showed the world what elite college basketball looked like.

VIII: The Corey Maggette Era.

Like we said earlier, Maggette was one of three to take his talents to the NBA as an underclassman. While the Chicago hooper only scored 8 points in this national championship, we all began to love #50 with one of the most anti-Duke moments in Duke history, when he went rim-to-rim and slapped boards on Florida. (Also of note, Len Elmore was HATING so heavy on Maggette. Good grief.)

IX: Richard Hamilton's shoe game was real.

If you watch this game closely, it seems like nearly everyone on the Huskies was rocking Air Jordan XIV's, but Richard Hamilton's white/red colorways were simply gorgeous. UConn and Nike don't get enough credit for coming up with an original uniform scheme in the mid-'90s, and they still look good today. Rip's selection of kicks, that uniform and his slender frame made him stand out after running around screen after screen, and I'm pretty sure he was the reason I asked my mama to cop me a pair that summer. (I mowed 12 lawns to get those damn shoes.)

X: Rip Hamilton's basketball game was even realer

My words from Sneaker Report on the greatness of Rip Hamilton in 1999: The man with the coolest nickname in UConn history also had the smoothest game. Richard Hamilton was a scoring machine at Connecticut, with a silky jumper, a crafty slashing ability and a stone-cold demeanor, he earned the nickname that was given to him, Rip. (Although the legend goes that he actually got the nickname from ripping his diapers off as a child, but I digress.) With Duke standing in their way from college basketball immortality, the shooter from Coatesville went to battle with the shooter from Anchorage in Trajan Langdon, and Hamilton's 27 trumped Langdon's 25 and the Huskies captured their first NCAA championship in a 77-74 victory. Rip would be named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, and I'm pretty sure he'll never have to pay for drinks in Storrs ever again.

All hail the UConn Huskies, the 1999 NCAA National Champions, everybody.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *