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YouTube Gold: Phil Henderson’s Finest Moment

And one of the great plays in Duke’s history

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NCAA Basketball Tournament - East Regional - Washington DC
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: The Duke Blue Devils mascot performs against the Michigan State Spartans during the second half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There are so many moments in the Duke canon that amaze that sometimes it’s hard to even remember them. Everyone remembers the Christian Laettner shot against Kentucky and the Gone in 54 Seconds game is hard to forget. Austin Rivers buzzer beating three to gut UNC is indelible too.

But some get overlooked just due to so many memorable moments. Take the late Phil Henderson’s greatest play.

In 1989, Duke had drawn more or less even with John Thompson’s Georgetown program but had not yet clearly surpassed it. The teams met in the 1989 tournament though and Georgetown had Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo, two of the best shot blockers in the history of college basketball.

Mourning had blocked 27 shots in one high school game. They were both tremendous. Christian Laettner at this point was a promising young player but no one put the word legend next to his name yet.

So when 6-4 Phil Henderson rose up and slammed one down on Mourning it was more than just a dunk. It was a statement.

It was a personal statement on his part and a statement that reflected Duke basketball’s toughness.

People were scared of Mourning before that dunk.

After? The mystique was never the same. He had a really solid pro career and was widely respected but no one ever feared him the same way after Henderson’s dunk.

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