The most amazing part of the scene on Franklin Street last night wasn’t any fire or tree-climbing hooligan. It wasn’t a camera or a stolen street sign. Nor the sweat dripping from the 55,00 feral bodies littering the streets.
Instead it was the thousands of stories playing out in front of my teary eyes.
There were sons on dad’s necks, with hands raised toward the sky in elation. There were couples kissing. There were sighs of relief. There were grandparents in jerseys. There were grown men brought to their knees. There were tears of joy — and tears for our beloved Marcus and Brice.
Each one, with a different story to tell.
Of course, all of them were elated, but to each of us it means something different. There were no two people on that crowded street that felt the same thing.
For many, it was about redemption and the difference a year makes. For others, it was about seeing that big grin on Theo’s face. For some, it was crying as Roy Williams cut down the nets.
For me, I will remember this team as a bunch of guys who were fun to be around. Sure, I will remember the pain I felt walking into the locker room after the loss last year, but now it will be filled in with the beauty of the confetti falling on their faces.
For Kennedy, Isaiah, and Nate, it was the storybook ending.
It wasn’t a flawless journey and maybe they would do things differently if they had it to do over again, but their journey ended at the pinnacle of their sport. Kennedy cleaned the glass, Isaiah turned it on when we needed him most, and Nate was a calm, steady hand in the backcourt.
For the rest of their days they will say they finished their careers in Chapel Hill as champions.
For Justin, Joel, and Theo, it was their team.
You can make the case that this class will go down as one of the most decorated ever, if they all choose to come back, especially. Justin, a record-breaker, an all-american, a quiet assassin. Joel, the hardest worker I know, a put-the-team-on-my-back type of player, a terror to defend. Theo, a class clown, an incredible passer, a heart and soul of the team.
For the rest of their days they will say they fell, fought back, and found glory.
For the youngsters, Luke, Tony, Seventh, and Brandon, it was their pleasure.
To assist the guys who had been here before, to hit daggers to save the season, to provide crucial minutes off the bench. They learned what it meant to be a Tar Heel. To fight and to rally and to redeem the very depths of a city.
For the rest of their days they will say they learned, executed, and performed when it mattered.
For Roy, it was his life.
It may sound extreme, but you could see it in his eyes. After the Georgia Tech loss to open ACC play. After the big time wins against Louisville and FSU in conference play. After the trials and tribulations of a season. This team, this chance at a title, this journey of redemption — this meant the world to him. To get this group of men, the most fun he’s ever had, on a ladder, in Phoenix, with a pair of scissors in hand.
For the rest of his days he will say he coached a team who believed in him.
Who knows how many people flooded to the streets after the final buzzer. Who knows what was really in the minds of the players and coaches on the floor. Who knows when we’ll be here again.
What I do know, though, is that we all have one hell of a story to tell for the rest of our days.
And once more, a banner to raise.