Bob Valvano On Kevin Ware And His Teammates' Response

Andy Lyons

Before you read another word about Kevin Ware's injury or Louisville's win over Duke, I urge you to first read the take that Bob Valvano has posted on Facebook. It's as heartfelt and poignant as anything I've seen in a long while.

Okay violating my self imposed Facebook abstinence here just one time before June 1, but I hope you will understand...

Today was that exceptional...

I have broadcast games for 17 years, 12 on radio with Paul Rogers for the University of Louisville games. Only one other time, of a much more personal nature, was I moved to tears on the air. In Albeuquerque, the same site as my brother Jim's national championship, Louisville came from 20 points down in an Elite Eight game to go to Rick Pitino's first Final Four with the Cards. For various reasons, including a tremendously generous gesture by then assistant coach Kevin Willard, I was so moved...but that was more personal...

Today, Kevin Ware suffered one of the most gruesome injuries you'll see on basketball court, or anywhere. In the first half, he jumped to challenge a shot, simply landed wrong and his leg was grotesquely broken and twisted.
What followed was unlike anything I have seen at a game, coaching or broadcasting. Louisville players began crying on the court; a few vomited at the sight, as the injury was right in front of the bench. Duke players and Coach K were obviously moved as well...

Making it more surreal was how it happened. No one could see from the outer reaches of this vast arena what exactly occurred. Even our viewpoint, courtside right opposite Louisville's bench was difficult to see, but players on the court, who could see it in detail, started dropping to the court. Paul and I thought there might have been a collision we missed. A few broadcasters in the further points actually thought someone took a shot at the players; in this day of terrorism that may be sad, but not illogical.

Three players dropped to the court. Peyton Siva dropped to a knee to pray...clearly not business as usual...

As the time stretched on, it became apparent the injury was awful. In today's instant media,pictures were quickly transmitted. The players looked stunned, sad, bewildered...

Kevin Ware asked his teammates to gather around before going off on a stretcher and told them, "I will be fine. Now go out and win this game..." which only added to the emotional impact...

What transpired after halftime was almost overwhelming to witness. The emotion etched on the players' faces was unlike any I had ever seen at a game. I can't even describe it, truly...pain over their friend, effort to refocus on the game, determination to win, in many ways for Kevin Ware.

It seemed like little happened to make people forget the injury. As Louisville improbably pulled away to a 22 point win, the crowd started chanting "Ke-Vin, Ke-Vin..." The game ended without the Cards cutting the nets down, and Rick Pitino urging the crowd to honor Kevin by chanting again as he stood on the podium.

There was a play very late with the game essentially over, where Luke Hancock--who started the year so bumpily and was the subject of fans' wrath-- taking a leadership role, waving everyone away so he could create a shot for walk on Tim Henderson, who proceeded to nail a three point shot, and receive an exuberant hug from the normally stoic Hancock.

All game we saw that emotion from players who rarely show it. It is one of the times sitting courtside gives a vantage point I am not sure TV could capture...although I know many simply watching at home were moved to tears...

And so my broadcast partner was moved to tears as well...and I was unable to do much to help him...overwhelming...

It was incredible...and I thought about why? Players get hurt all the time...why was this so emotional?

Of course it was gruesome. That is undeniably a big part. But to watch the unique bond that is a team, and how much pain these kids had to play through, and how they rallied together...AND rallied to play for their fallen teammate...again, overwhelming...

I was moved at the emotion by the Duke players and coaches as well.That was a reminder again how blessed you are when the outcome of a game can be so important to you. It IS important; that's fine, but in moments like that you realize how fleeting it all can be and how it can all go away. Even young bullet proof players at that moment can't help but be reminded, "There but for the grace of God go I"...

It makes anyone watching feel the same about their own lives. How fragile it all can be; you must embrace the moments, pull those dear to you near, and don't waste the time you have with all can go away so fast...

Yes, all that from basketball game. So I was very moved, and know I wasn't alone...

After the game I got a hug from Russ Smith who was devestated at the injury. I got to share a moment with Gorgei Dieng and Peyton Siva, emotional and spiritual leaders in many ways on this team. It is different, a bit subdued, but they are happy and proud, and maybe in many ways, more meaningful than just a usual post game congratulations...

I wander around for a bit, pass a closed training room and hear what sounds like a player laughing hysterically. I ask, "Is that someone laughing?". Somber subdued voices tell me, no those sounds are from one of the players crying, wailing, the sounds now gut wrenching as I realize what the reality actually is...

i won't mention the player's name, as i am not interested in violating his privacy, but i am reminded again...they're people, not X's and O's,and in so many meaningful ways, just kids at that.

Every once in a while the game transcends the sport, and the sport transcends itself, sending life lessons and creating human drama of the highest order.

Today was one of those days, and I was humbled to try and help Paul find the words to describe it on radio.
That's probably impossible, when you are asked to describe some things you've never seen before.

But I will never forget having the opportunity today, to try...

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