No. 13 Indiana hosted No. 3 North Carolina last night in a game in which members of the 1981 Hoosier team—the Isiah Thomas-led bunch that won the championship that season by whipping the Tar Heels in the final—were on hand 1) to be honored for their past triumph before this game, and 2) to watch a mini-recreation of that historic win when the Hoosiers would inevitably proceed to smash the Heels once this game started. Smash the Heels the Hoosiers did, by a closer-seeming-than-it-actually-was score of 76-67.
Thomas, predictably, was handed a front-row seat for the big game. It seemed an auspicious bit of fortune when, in a mid-game interview with the formerly beloved, currently (and quite justifiably) reviled ex-Hoosier star, it was revealed that sitting right behind Thomas was a young lady holding a big cut-out of the Crying Jordan face. This was poetic for a couple of obvious reason: Thomas and Jordan being long-time blood-rivals, and the two NBA Hall of Famers’ respective alma maters.
It made sense, then, when following the Hoosiers’ win, the young lady who brought the sign passed it over to Thomas and Thomas, with some relish, lifted this hilariously weepy head over his own joyously beaming one, inspiring at first the crowd and later the world (once the photo of the moment spread online) with this delicious and multi-layered image:
When asked by ESPN about the incident, Thomas admitted that he knew exactly what he was doing:
“There were two girls sitting behind me, two IU students, and one of them handed it to me,” Thomas said. “I knew the crowd would go crazy — and they did when I held it up.”
Thomas and Jordan have had their friction over the course of their NBA careers, but Thomas described their relationship as “friendly.”
“I love just being a fan,” he added. “It was fun.”
Yes, Isiah sucks, but it still feels damn good to be a Hoosier today.