Christian Laettner. Lorenzo Charles. Mario Chalmers.
On the other side of desperation, this is how they felt, too. Once the mad dash was complete, once the wild shot had been made, once the legacy had been established, the legends always felt the same.
And so Scottie Reynolds ran onto a basketball court Friday afternoon, and this time, his feet did not seem to touch the floor. He looked up into the stands of the cavernous Ford Field, and that familiar little boy's smile of his emerged once again.
Yeah, this was where his drive took his team.
Yeah, this is the best of all possible times to be Scottie Reynolds.
One burst down the court, and suddenly, he owns Philadelphia, down to the Liberty Bell and the statue of Rocky. One drive into the lane, and suddenly, everyone knows his name. One soft shot, and he is the kid with four tons of guts inside a 195-pound body.
He is Scottie Reynolds, and in the most memorable game of the NCAA Tournament, he made the unforgettable shot.
"Everywhere I go, that's all people want to talk about," Reynolds said. "People are going bonkers."
Of course they are. Don't you remember the way Reynolds was unable to get free for the inbounds pass. Do you remember the burst of speed with which he flew up the court, so fast that as he took the pass from Dante Cunningham, he was already past three Pitt defenders. Remember how he weaved around one of the others, then drove directly toward the other? Do you remember how he hovered, absorbing the contact, and softly knocked down the shot of his life?
Around Villanova, they will never forget.
And that is the beauty of the NCAA Tournament.
Keith Smart. Bryce Drew. U.S. Reed.
For all of the upsets, for all of the overtimes, there is nothing that defines the NCAA Tournament as much as its last-second shots.
True, other sports can have dramatic endings — the Hail Mary pass, the walkoff home run — but none of them seems to occur so quickly. In a matter of seconds, the players of a team can go from being in control of the game to trying to figure out how that dagger got into their hearts. In what other sport does the defining play coincide with the final buzzer so often?
"Even the Hail Mary pass, you get to stop, run the play," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "In basketball, it happens so fast, and it can happen right as the horn blows. I don't think there is anything like that in sports. It's probably one of the biggest thrills in sports."
For most of the tournament, however, the late-second dramatics have been scarce. Gonzaga's Demetri Goodson had a nice drive to beat Western Kentucky. Trevon Hughes of Wisconsin broke the hearts of FSU. But, really, this NCAA Tournament didn't have this kind of moment until Reynolds' drive.
"There were a lot of amazing parts to that play," Wright said. "If you ask me the most, I think it was the fact that Scott went up into the defender's arms. I thought the defender did a great job. You don't want to foul there. You want to keep your hands straight up. You want to contest the shot. The guy did everything he was supposed to, and Scottie still made the play. That's what was amazing about it."
Danny Ainge. Tyus Edney. Rip Hamilton.
The list goes on. So, too, does the debate over which shot was best. There are those who will argue that N.C. State's Charles hit the biggest shot, because it provided a title when his team upset Houston in 1983. There are those who will say, no, it was Duke's Laettner, who ended a great game with his jumper against Kentucky in 1992.
And that's the thing. These moments define a player forever. To most of us, Chalmers will always be the guy who saved Kansas a year ago, and Smart will live forever in the corner where he shot Indiana into a title in 1987. BYU's Ainge will forever drive the court against Notre Dame, and Arkansas' Reed will launch that impossible halfcourter against Louisville in 1981.
As for Reynolds? His shot will be remembered, too.
"We'll have to see where that adds up," Reynolds said. "Hopefully, it will go down in history. Hopefully, they'll say we won a championship as well."
One shot, and the kid gets greedy.
That said, look out for him in the closing seconds tonight. He just might do it again.