March Madness Takes Over KC! (03-17-15)
When it comes to Kansas City and basketball, local resident and attorney Christopher Korth knows it all. He became roommates with Doug Knust and Gerry Brenneman in 1981 while attending Creighton University in Omaha. As avid basketball fans and since no one paid for television back in those days, the trio found a bar in Council Bluffs, Iowa to watch the famous March basketball games on ESPN from 10 am until 2 am.
Why did they care so much? There are many reasons but Korth answers the question simply as “we care more about young athletes who get paid nothing then pro athletes who get paid millions.” Of course that is during basketball season.
Also, just 40 miles from Kansas City in Lawrence, James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, started the University of Kansas basketball program. Ironically he was the only coach in the program’s history to have a losing record. But he laid the groundwork that led the later teams to take the entire championship in 1952, 1988 and 2008.
The NCAA, the Big 8, the Big 12 and the NABC were all headquartered in Kansas City at one time because to many, Kansas City is the #1 college basketball city with more fans than any other city. While the other headquarters scatted to other cities, the NABC, National Association of Basketball Coaches, chose to keep their headquarters in Kansas City. And for those who want hands-on, high energy basketball fun then they can go to the CBE, College Basketball Experience.
Just talk to any basketball fan and they can tell you stories like those from Chris Korth. He recalls how they had no money as college students so they got one of the fathers with his credit card to get tickets to the 1982 Final Four in New Orleans. That would be when Michael Jordan appeared as a freshman and whose shot with 17 seconds to go won the national championship for North Carolina.
When Kemper Arena in Kansas City celebrated its 50th anniversary, it did so in style. The Final Four Tournament returned to Kansas City for the 10th time. The teams left standing were Kansas, Duke, Arizona and Oklahoma. Then came the final two and it wasn’t the teams that were expected. The half time score was 50/50 which was unheard of in basketball; especially with these two teams. When the last second ticked off, the local team KU upset the powerhouse Oklahoma with a score of 83 to 79. The Most Outstanding Player was Danny Manning of KU and the 1988 KU team was known thereafter as “Danny and the Miracles.”
Offices and groups all over the United States are getting their brackets inked from round to round to the Final Four. Meanwhile, Korth and his buddies are looking forward to Indianapolis where they will attend their 34th Final Four Tournament. The rest of us in Kansas City, many wearing KU Jayhawk gear, will gather in homes and sports bars cheering for another victory.