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The Last Great Game

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But those are minor complaints in a book that is both fun and thorough without getting tedious.

Sportswriters and fans, not to mention ESPN and the other networks that show the endless series of major pro and college sporting events, seem prone to overhyping every player and every game in the current era of infinite highlight loops, constant analysis, and screen-bottom scrolls. So much so that even a game from 1992 – the regional final between defending national champion Duke and heavy underdog Kentucky – feels quaint by comparison.

To be sure, the climactic Hill-Laettner clip of what many believe is the greatest game ever played is familiar even to those fans who were too young or weren’t even alive at the time, but, by today’s standards, the reaction was tame. ESPN didn’t dub it an “Instant Classic” and replay the game multiple times during the following week, though it did, of course, show the highlights on “SportsCenter” in constant rotation. No Twitter tag was created labeling it “#grtstgmevr” and clips of Laettner’s shot weren’t swapped instantly on iPhones in the minutes and hours after the game ended.

Those things didn’t happen because the technology didn’t exist, but the prevalence of such accoutrements today makes it all the harder to discern what is memorable because of accomplishment and what is memorable because of mere ubiquity. Such are the concerns of the modern sports fan and opinion makers, often left to ponder how each generation’s subsequent media age shapes the eternal debates: the best plays, the best players, the best games, the best moments, and so on.

In the case of Duke-Kentucky, there is no need for second-guessing. Take, for instance, the opinion of Len Elmore, the CBS analyst who called the game that day. Elmore told Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan Duke-Kentucky was the greatest game the sport had ever seen and he should know. Elmore played for Maryland in the 1974 Atlantic Coast Conference championship against North Carolina State, the previous consensus standard-bearer.

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