Eight years ago Monday, the guy no one could stop or stop talking about was -- much like nowadays -- Stephen Curry.
On hand to see it? LeBron James.
Curry was on a sizzling tourney tear, scoring 70 combined points in 10-seed Davidson's first- and second-round upset wins over Gonzaga and Georgetown respectively. Next up were the Badgers at Ford Field in Detroit. Coincidentally, the Cleveland Cavaliers played the Detroit Pistons in Auburn Hills the following night. LeBron couldn't pass up the chance.
"I'm here to watch the kid," James told Cleveland.com.
Although the "kid" was only three years younger, James was still his established elder, and Curry didn't disappoint: 37 points, including several of the sublime plays he has since made his signature. (Check out this and-1 layup from the full-game highlight, for instance, which left Gus Johnson speechless and James delighted.)
"He's a very, very, very, very, very good basketball player," James continued. "I don't know if he's coming out [to the NBA] this year. When he does, he has a spot."
He even doubled down in a halftime radio interview: Curry was NBA material.
Let's not revise history; it was difficult then to conceive a basketball world in which Curry could challenge James for ultimate supremacy. Curry was only a blooming sophomore. Doubts lingered about his pro prospects, some of which he put to rest after another productive junior season. Meanwhile, James was about to embark on his world-beating Miami sojourn.
But when the league's two most luminous stars met last June, James recalled the Wisconsin game well.
"I saw a kid who didn't care how big someone was, how fast someone else was, how strong someone else was" James said before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. "He just went out and played. He wasn't going to let anything -- as far as the analytics when it comes to size, power, strength, speed -- stop him from what he was able to do.
"It was great to see someone like that who doesn't get caught up in people going after guys who can jump higher and run faster and run through a wall harder and things like that. He was just out there playing free and loving the game."
After beating Wisconsin, Curry's Wildcats came within one possession of beating eventual champion Kansas for a Final Four berth. In December of 2008, James was again courtside when Curry hit one of his wildest collegiate 3s to help put away NC State.
"He had just a little bit of room, and you can't give him too much room," James said, a lesson he and the Cavs well know.