Four seconds left. Your team is up 3 points. You have two free throws to seal the biggest win of your career. You sink both and as the game ends you and your teammates are swarmed by an excited mob of students chanting your name. A dream come true.
Now imagine you were winless in conference coming into the game. That you’ve been running yourself into the ground at practice trying to improve enough to get even one more win. That there was a chance you might never win another game in your career. The win is no longer just a dream come true, it’s also the end of a nightmare.
This is the story that played out for Minnesota senior Joey King last night. And it’s the source of why I loved Joey’s tearful post-game interview on Big Ten Network.
That’s raw emotion shared in a way you don’t see every day in sports. There’s nothing canned, packaged, or prepared. It’s a young man who has played his heart out finally getting to feel victory after two months of defeat. It goes beyond happiness or excitement. It’s a player who is affected not just by a win but by the support of his fellow students. Moved not only by victory but by the release of loss. There is a reason this upset feels more consequential than it is in the grand scheme of things. It’s because it was cathartic. And Joey’s interview is that catharsis distilled and displayed in a moving way we can all understand and respect.
This wasn't a perfect game. This isn't a perfect season. But against Maryland the Gophers and Joey found something almost as important; a perfect moment of relief, joy, and triumph.