Something for everyone to celebrate
Editor's note: ESPN.com covered the UConn women's perfect run in 2001-02, including this postgame column following the '02 national championship game.
SAN ANTONIO -- Connecticut's Tamika Williams -- who needs to have her own talk show, so make room, Oprah -- was saying she'd need some time to really appreciate what the Huskies did this season.
Well, speaking from the vantage point of someone who is 35 or 36 or (cough, cough) 37, I'll say that TW might have a hard time believing it all then, too. In fact, it may seem like even more of a dream when she's taking one little urchin to soccer practice and the other one has an ear infection and just threw up in the back of the minivan.
Then she'll laugh as she's cleaning up Junior, thinking about how Swin would go bananas if her kid accidentally barfed on one of her new outfits. And then she'll wonder how Sue's senate campaign is going. And then she'll call Asjha Jones and say, "Girl, these kids are making me crazy."
And Asjha, being Asjha, will just listen to her buddy talk, saying only "uh-huh," "yeah" and "oh, I know it," for the next hour and 15 minutes.
It was nice seeing these four young women be so happy together Sunday night after winning the national championship, wasn't it? They've done their part, and then some, raising the level of women's basketball in their careers at Connecticut.
Look at how physically strong they are, the hours they've put into training and conditioning. The Oklahoma kids said before the game the biggest challenge against UConn was that the Huskies were so fundamentally sound -- they made so few mistakes while seeming to capitalize on every miscue that foes make.
Yet the Sooners didn't exactly fall to pieces in the face of the UConn onslaught, did they? Ever seen a harder-played game than Sunday night's? Connecticut deserves to celebrate its national championship. But let's hope hope the Sooners also celebrate the game they played.
Nobody could beat the Huskies this season. They were the best. But Oklahoma's effort and heart are also unforgettable parts of this Final Four. As someone who follows the Big 12 full-time in the Heartland, I can say that watching the Sooners' rise from 5-22 in coach Sherri Coale's first season to the national championship game Sunday is one of the neatest things I've seen in sports.
And how about the unselfish play and the maturity of the Huskies? When Williams was asked the "greatest team ever" question, she gave the kind of answer that makes me think she's really already 35 or 36. How can someone so young have such perspective?
"When you've got players ahead of you like Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer Rizzotti and players like that, you can't be the greatest," Williams said. "Are we up there with one of the best? Yes. The game is moving so fast, there is going to be another four or five like us that is going to do some good for women's basketball."
Yet Williams and her teammates -- an unselfish, hard-working, intelligent and well-spoken group -- have raised the bar just like the other undefeated teams before them did. They will indeed look back on this night and think about how much harder it was than most people realized -- and how that makes it even more memorable.
You know that the players on the 1998 Tennessee team, the 1995 UConn team and the 1986 Texas team do that, too.
One thing, though ... the UConn kids may never look back on this national championship with the same utter horror as the '86 Texas "kids" do.
The Texans now see pictures of themselves with '80s hair and wearing their short shorts -- I think Williams calls this the "Polyester Days" -- and say, "Is there any way we can destroy all the prints?"
The Huskies probably think that every photo of this night will forever look good. And they might be right about that.
But we won't know that absolutely for sure until Tamika Williams is 35 or 36, right?
Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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