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|Sean May's been the key to Carolina's run to the Final Four.|
He couldn't put any pressure on his foot. Or his leg. Sprained anterior or posterior tibial, pulled hamstring. Both. It was too late in the game; the pressure was too tight. The best player on the team -- its leader -- had just fouled out with 4:02 left. He, the reserved one of this clique, had left the game with 5:42 left, never expecting to come back. The game before this one made him a star. Twenty-five points. Elite Eight status for a team that should've been ranked No. 4 instead of seeded 4. He was this year's Lionel Chalmers. The brotha who was singing Mighty Mouse songs. Here he came again, injured foot and all, to save the day. But this time, he couldn't pull off another miracle by putting points up on the board. He had to somehow will his birds back into a game against a flock that was dropping threes like Iverson, Marbury, D.Wade, Q.Rich and Ben Wallace were all on the same squad. It was an uncliché game where you hated to see someone lose. Dude didn't feel that way. And despite his teammate's 21 second-half points, it was he, Taquan Dean, who sat next to his coach the next day, Easter Sunday, and talked to Greg Gumbel, Seth Davis and Clark Kellogg about how the West was won ... * * * * *
He got blamed for their only loss. In that game, that one flawed game over three weeks ago, he scored two points and the Illa lost by one. Again, mathematics. It was his fault. With four minutes left on Saturday, his team down by 15, he thought about that loss. He thought, I can take the blame for one loss, but not two. A commentator broadcasting the game on the radio said his name, said he "hasn't gone off yet." Said, that was scary. Down by 13 with 3:28 left, down by 11 with 3:00 left, down by nine with 2:43 left. He was starting to go off.
|Deron Williams stepped up when it counted, when his team needed him the most.|
Yes, the parity that is the blessed result of Amare, LeBron and Dwight never entering this stage. The parity that we've begged for from unpaid, scholarshiped ball. Because of that, fate -- not talent, money, or recruiting -- will decide whose back story we will be telling on Tuesday, April 5. And it is the fateful moments like the ones we just witnessed in an unforgettable 48-hour period that will have us on lock again. Waiting for a No. 1 team with only one loss to come back from 15 down with 4 minutes left; waiting for a 48-percent-shooting team to outscore a 68-percent-shooting team by one; waiting for the moment when a toe-on-the-line isn't a toe-on-the-line and it takes the refs almost as long to decide whether the shot that took an hour to fall through the rim loses the game or ties it; waiting for a coach whose mother has just passed away to maintain his composure -- even in the middle of his team's euphoria -- but sees his brother and finally loses it in his arms. This is what we'll take into next weekend. It will never live up to the one that just passed. Or will it? Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines; and the author of "Sole Provider: 30 Years of NIKE Basketball," "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here.