I probably treated Las Vegas how a grandma would, except I declined valet parking. The last thing you want to do is hand someone else the keys when there’s a dead body in your trunk.
What happened in Vegas will stay in Vegas. What happened the next day in Provo, Utah, will stay with me forever.
I’ll never forget being at the players’ tunnel hours before the most hyped basketball game in conference history. The sun had fallen and the throng of chanting BYU students coiled like a snake around Marriott Center had finally slithered in. They were hissing in their seats, thousands of them — and in one instant they looked at me and convulsed into wild hysteria, a euphoric frenzy. Only they were really looking behind me.
Standing alone at the tunnel’s opposite end, with his warm-up jersey tucked into his shorts, was a 6-foot-2 myth posing as human. He didn’t seem at all weighted down by the school, the religion, or the race sitting atop his shoulders as he gradually walked toward the court, where he’d finally join his teammates in draining warm-up jumpers with placid fluidity.
It’s my guess that only heroes and villains have an aura that can jiggle the nerves of the imperturbable. I’d never felt this aura around an athlete or coach, until then.
You would’ve gotten goose bumps, too.
He looks more like a character from the The Chronicles of Narnia than someone in the race for Player of the Year. His style of play is a contradiction to the laws of basketball: He cranks off-balance shots from well beyond the arc, leaves his feet when passing, and attempts to slay giants at the rim.
And his physical appearance is a mockery to the status quo. He’s shorter than his 6-foot-2 listing, and his skin is paler than the salt flats of Utah. On the inside, he’s just as calm, just as cold.
He is BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, and he’s the best player in college basketball.
I was there, and I’ll never forget.
I’ll never forget the look on the face of San Diego State’s Billy White. As if Jimmer’s crossover was a broom, he swept White to the side like dog hair, then slowly stepped back to a resounding “oooh” from the crowd before dusting off the net, and his shoulders, with a three-pointer. A mask of anger and confusion cast over White’s face amid the frenzy and he was speechless for the first time in his mouthful of a career.
Jimmer shined the hardwood all night with red and black jock straps and egos, rarely missing a spot, or a shot. I imagined watching Jimmer with the basketball is like seeing Michelangelo with a paintbrush, only the picture for the Aztecs wasn’t pretty: Jimmer beat then-No. 4 SDSU by himself.
If you don’t believe he won the game on his own, just ask Jimmer. When interviewed, he acknowledged his teammates for “doing a great job setting screens for me.” In other words, Jimmer said his teammates were excellent at standing like statues while he danced around them.
I’ll never forget the multitudes clamoring for Jimmer to shoot once crossing half-court with a full shot clock.
I’ll never forget seeing the flaming red scratches on Jimmer’s arms after the game — evidence he was human.
And maybe someday I’ll forgive Jimmer for beating my university, but I’ll never Fredette him.