After the final buzzer sounded and the players exited the court, 16,300 fans witnessed one of the greatest endings to a basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse. The Legends of the Phog alumni game could not have ended in a better way as the game concluded in a tie, 111-111.
The two most likely of guys finished the game off in historic fashion. Paul Pierce and Mario Chalmers sent fans into a frenzy in the final seconds as they each took their turn in playing the hero.
Pierce hit a step-back three over Brandon Rush to put the Blue Team up 111-108 with five seconds remaining. Most fans probably thought the game was over, but Chalmers had one last miracle up his sleeve. Chalmers hit a fade-away three-pointer over Jeff Hawkins as time expired that made Allen Fieldhouse erupt like a volcano.
Chalmers’ final shot had fans reminiscing back to the 2008 National Championship when his three sent the game into overtime. Before Chalmers received the inbounds pass fans were heard chanting his name, `Mario.’
“Yeah, I heard it,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done before and something I’m accustomed to. This type of atmosphere is great and being out there with the older guys and coaches was unbelievable.”
Chalmers finished the game with a double-double, 17 points and 10 assists.
For Pierce (16 points and eight rebounds), this was one of the few times he’s been able to make it back to Lawrence since he left for the NBA.
“It’s a special feeling when you come into Allen Fieldhouse; it’s a players’ gym,” Pierce said. “Once you walk into the Fieldhouse the adrenaline starts going, and I told the guys when we came back from lay-up lines that it felt like game seven of the NBA playoffs. That’s how much adrenaline I had and that’s how many chills I got. I feel right at home on that court and its good the game ended the way it did.”
Pierce was asked where his go-ahead shot ranked on his all-time list and he said with a laugh that it was right up there, just behind the birth of his daughter. In his mind he knew the whole time it was going in.
“Of course I did,” the 13-year NBA veteran said. “If you don’t believe you’re going to hit it, then why be out there?”
As soon as Chalmers’ final shot went through the net, Pierce immediately ran over and embraced him.
“I said that’s the way it’s supposed to end,” Pierce explained. “It was just like his championship shot and everyone got a replay of it tonight.”
During Pierce’s playing days at Kansas he never lost a home game in Fieldhouse and after tonight his loss column remains filled with a zero.
“Yeah, I told Max (Falkenstein) at the half that I don’t plan on losing this one so I think I’m 55-0-1,” Pierce said.
Pierce has left KU fans with a lot of wonderful memories over the years and tonight he only added to it. As the years have passed since Pierce last roamed the halls of Allen Fieldhouse, a few things have changed, but not many. Renovations have been made, like the three-year old practice facility, which was built after the 2008 National Championship (thanks to some guy named Chalmers).
“It’s all the same just a lot louder, he said. “I was talking on the bench and I could barely hear Coach (Larry) Brown during the timeout. All game it was that loud. This atmosphere, this is a loud place to play and if you’re the opposite team then you are in trouble. I’m glad I went here and didn’t have to play as an opponent here.”
This event reminded Pierce of one of the last times he played in `The Phog.’ January 17, 1998, during his final season wearing a Kansas jersey a certain someone came back to have his jersey hung in the rafters. That guy just happened to be Wilt Chamberlain.
“That was one of the greatest moments from my time here at KU,” Pierce said. “You look at a player like Wilt who paved the way for a lot of players at Kansas and also the NBA. That’s really where I saw the first type of family atmosphere here because when I was here they brought back some of the old teams. Wilt came back and other former players were always coming around. This is just a special place and we’re always welcome back as players.”
Pierce has been blessed to be a part of two outstanding and successful programs during his collegiate and professional basketball career. It doesn’t get much better than the Kansas Jayhawks and Boston Celtics. The two programs have combined for 22 national titles and world championships.
“I have really been blessed to be a part of two great traditions,” Pierce explained. “When Coach asked me to come back, I didn’t hesitate to tell him yes, it was just a great opportunity for me to come back. I have been wanting to come back, I wanted to be here for the basketball camp, but it didn’t work out with my schedule, so when he asked me it was a no-brainer to come back and be here around my old teammates and reflect on memories. When I first got here, I walked the campus, went and saw some of my old classes and where I stayed at, saw some of the things they added on. It brought back a lot of great memories, and I am glad I had the chance to come back.”
Kansas fans should be proud of what they witnessed today in Allen Fieldhouse. Like Pierce said, no other college brings in alumni from the NBA to put on an event like `The Legends of the Phog.’
Fans should also take note that this may not be the last time this type of event occurs in Lawrence for the next few years to come.
“I mentioned to Coach (Bill) Self that we should do something like this where we can get together,” Pierce said. “This is a family type of program; the guys come back. I stay in touch with Ryan Robertson and other guys that I played with. I talk to Mario (Chalmers), we have that type of relationship because we have that link because we’re Jayhawks.
It’s beautiful. Other schools don’t do this around the country to where (alumni) come back. This is a special place. Coach Self said we can come back anytime and I plan on coming back a lot more than I have in the past. You really don’t truly realize how special this place is until you come back and you step away from it and see it again; it’s unbelievable.”