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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: January 25, 1:35 PM ET
Reliving 34 years of instant classics

By Dick Vitale

I have been very fortunate to have the best seat in the house for 34 years. Calling games for ESPN and ABC has been special, and there have been so many great moments, fantastic action.

Last weekend's game between Gonzaga and Butler was one of the best I've ever been a part of. The passion and emotion, hard work and effort displayed between Gonzaga and Butler was impressive. It was an incredible environment there at Hinkle Field House, which is like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field in baseball.

The Butler-Gonzaga game epitomized what the sport is all about. The action and excitement of Saturday was memorable. Yes, it ranks among the best of the best that I have called over the years.

Since that game, people have asked me to talk about some of the other games that I ranked among the elite over my time on television. It was really tough to pick the best ones because there have been so many memories.

One of the first that came to mind was the February 1995 classic between North Carolina and Duke. You can always throw the records out when these two ACC rivals meet. Duke was winless in league play while Carolina was ranked number two in America. Most people thought it would be blowout city. It was not.

Jeff Capel hit a remarkable 35-foot running shot to extend the game. I remember saying that we could stay here all night. There was such excitement in the air over that basket. It was not enough as the Tar Heels prevailed in double-overtime, but we had a memory for the ages.

I could have put a number of Duke-North Carolina games on my list, because the rivalry has been that great. I will keep the Capel shot as my one to remember.

I will stay in the ACC for my next selection. North Carolina and Virginia featured two of my favorite college players in all of my years calling games. Michael Jordan and Ralph Sampson led their respective teams in February of 1983. The Cavaliers had a 16-point lead, but Michael the Magnificent had other ideas that day. He had a key steal late as the Tar Heels got to the winner's circle in another thriller.

In February 1987, I had a Big Ten classic between Indiana and Wisconsin. Most people thought the Hoosiers, under the leadership of The General, Robert Montgomery Knight, would roll. It took a while, and Indiana did win, but in three overtimes.

Indiana was involved in another one of my most memorable games. In March of 1989, it was the Hoosiers against Lou Henson and the Fighting Illini. Nick Anderson hit an amazing buzzer beater to give Illinois a 70-67 win. It was a stunning way to end the game.

Arizona and Stanford met in February of 2004. Tiger Woods was at the game, supporting his beloved Cardinal. He got to celebrate as the fans stormed the court following a winning shot by Nick Robinson. That buzzer-beater was nominated for an ESPY and was really special.

Speaking of buzzer-beaters, who could forget last season's Indiana-Kentucky game in Bloomington. My partner, Dan Shulman, made the call, "Watford for the win," and we heard that ring out the rest of the season.

The January 1990 game featuring UNLV and LSU was a beauty. Chris Jackson was on fire, scoring 35 points as Dale Brown's team prevailed, 107-105. Shaquille O'Neal put up a double-double and got a victory over Larry Johnson and company.

There have certainly been great individual performances, like the standing ovations I gave to David Robinson of Navy and Kansas star Nick Collison.

I am very lucky to have seen so many great basketball games over the years. My bosses at ESPN have assigned me to some special events. I have said it is like stealing cash, working on games and getting paid to have the best seat at courtside.