Remembering Adam Morrison And My Favorite College Basketball Moment Ever

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When you think back on college basketball seasons of years past, you remember specific teams, moments or players and usually you remember something from the NCAA Tournament that year. It might be a spectacular championship run, a Final Four appearance from a Cinderella, an improbable buzzer-beater never to be forgotten, or it could just be one player that seemed to define that tournament.

Adam Morrison is my favorite college basketball player, and his finest season of college basketball was in 2006. He didn’t end up winning National Player of the Year that year – J.J. Redick did – and he pan out as an NBA star (although he is an NBA champion as a member of the Lakers). Now, you don’t have to be a player of the year or an NBA star to have a lasting legacy in college hoops, but I’m left to ponder, 11 years after his final game at Gonzaga, what Morrison’s lasting legacy will be.

College basketball history is kindest to players and teams that had big-time tournament performances (either in the NCAA or a major conference tournament). Think, Kemba Walker with UConn in 2011. A player dragging his team to improbably high success is the one that is remembered most fondly. He finds his way into NCAA Tournament highlight packages for years to come, ensuring his efforts will never be forgotten.

Adam Morrison never had a signature NCAA Tournament moment. The furthest Morrison ever went in the NCAA Tournament was the Sweet 16 in 2006, but that team is remembered for the wrong reason. We remember Florida’s 2006 team that won it all with Joakim Noah and Al Horford. We remember George Mason’s 2006 team that stunned the world by making it to the Final Four.

As for Gonzaga’s 2006 team, there isn’t an Adam Morrison signature moment from the tournament to latch onto and remember fondly. Instead we remember them for one of the all-time late collapses in tournament history, which may sadly be the lasting legacy of the Morrison ‘Zags. He missed his shot at a “March Madness Moment” when his turnaround jumper in the final minute to go up five bounced off the back iron.

A loose ball foul on the ensuing rebound led to two made free throws to close the gap to one, and then back-to-back gut-wrenching turnovers with Morrison off the ball saw the Bulldogs three-point lead flip to a UCLA win.

Despite that unceremonious early departure from the tournament, the 2006 college basketball season will always be about Adam Morrison to me. The goofy, long-haired kid from Gonzaga, with his baggy t-shirt underneath his jersey, lit up the rest of the country to the tune of 28.1 points per game. He provided some iconic moments, they just didn’t happen in the tournament. No Morrison play is more memorable than his banked in three-pointer to beat Oklahoma State. That shot is etched into my mind forever thanks to one of the all-time great calls from Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery.

This is the moment I think about when I remember Adam Morrison’s career. Johnson and Raftery making guttural noises as the ball banks through, followed by Raftery finally formulating an actual word to scream, “Onions!” There’s Johnson yelling, “Larry Bird! Maybe?!” in his fit of excitement and a top-five all-time line from Bill Raftery with “when you’re sleepless in Seattle, why not get a little kiss!”

That shot, from a regular season game in December, is my favorite college basketball moment ever. It’s my favorite call of all time, in any sport, and might be why Adam Morrison remains my favorite college basketball player.

Morrison was simply fun to watch and very hard to hate (he was the anti-J.J. Redick in that regard). You had no idea how to project him at the next level — and clearly neither did NBA teams as he never really found a strong role in the league — but Morrison was simply a great college basketball player. He could get unfathomably hot at any time, and his shooting stroke at his size was a problem for defenders.

I don’t know how people will remember Adam Morrison 20 years from now. The lasting image of him for many may be him collapsing to the court and hiding in his jersey after UCLA stunned Gonzaga in the 2006 Sweet 16, because the NCAA Tournament is the defining moment for most every team and player.

However, as long as the internet exists, whenever I’m craving some college hoops nostalgia you can find me remembering the good times and watching that banked in three-pointer against Oklahoma State over and over, holding on to that little kiss in Seattle. What a smooch.