From 2021, 1991 seems a long time ago. Mike Krzyzewski is about to begin his last season, Christian Laettner is 52 and Jerry Tarkanian passed away six years ago.
But 1991 was Duke’s first national championship team and there’s nothing quite like the first.
It was particularly intense because when Duke and UNLV met in 1990, UNLV just beat Duke senseless. Coach K has always said that planning for revenge is planning for failure, or something along those lines, and that makes sense.
Even so, Duke always approaches games like that with immense intensity and UNLV in the 1991 semifinals was no different.
But this isn’t about that game. This is about the 1991 One Shining Moment, the CBS tradition that annually ends the tournament.
It’s not strictly speaking a Duke video of course, although Duke features prominently although not always positively: watch at about the 1:12 mark when Rod Sellers slams Christian Laettner’s head to the floor.
Laettner drove everyone crazy because he had a model’s good looks combined with a ruthlessly arrogant belief that he could not be beat. There were a lot of people who wanted to slam his head on the floor in 1991 and more in 1992.
But he was incredibly difficult to beat and helped lead Duke to a win in the 1991 championship game over Roy Williams and Kansas.
The final shot shows Brian Davis exulting as he embraces Coach K. We can't hear it but what he’s telling Krzyzewski is this: “We got the monkey off your back!”
It’s hard to believe now, but in 1991, there was a sense that he could not win a national championship. As he prepares to step down next spring with five to date, only John Wooden, with 10, has more titles.