Jason Kidd was struggling to recall the approaching anniversary, a highlight of his basketball career and surely the most thrilling moment experienced by Cal men's basketball since the 1959 team won the national championship.
Asked if he was aware of an important 20th anniversary this week, Kidd paused and scanned the heavens and responded incorrectly.
"State championship with St. Joe's?" he guessed, referencing his high school team in Alameda.
Kidd closed his eyes and was given a one-word hint: Cal.
His eyes lit up and his jaw dropped.
"It's been that long?" he said slowly. "Wow."
It was 20 years ago Wednesday when Kidd, just a freshman, and Cal posted a stunning 82-77 victory over defending champion Duke in a moment forever etched in NCAA tournament lore.
The Blue Devils were then, as now, the most consistently strong program in the country. They had the star coach, Mike Krzyzewski, and star players Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley. The Golden Bears were upstarts, totally unaccustomed to being invited to the tournament.
"There was a lot of talk about Hurley, going into the game," Kidd recalled. "He deserved it, because they had already won a championship. And Grant Hill was one of the best players in the college game at the time.
"We weren't given much of a chance to win our first game, against LSU, and then we had Duke. It was the same thing, nobody giving us a chance to win. Nobody thought it would even be a game. Then we found ourselves in the game. And then we found ourselves with an opportunity to win it. And from there, we took off."
Though the Golden Bears led by as many as 18 early in the second half, the Blue Devils came back to take a 77-76 lead with 2:21 left. Kidd tossed in a "prayer shot" that gave Cal the lead for good.
And to think, LSU coach Dale Brown, still gagging on the 66-64 loss delivered by Cal, had gone public in saying the Golden Bears didn't "have a prayer" of beating Duke.
The Bears were the darlings of the weekend, with Kidd adorning the cover of "Sports Illustrated" ("Jason Kidd and Cal dethrone Duke") and 29-year-old coach Todd Bozeman -- who took over in midseason and guided Cal to victory in nine of its last 10 regular-season games -- swimming against the tide of the game's best coaches.
Cal forward Lamond Murray, who scored a team-high 28 points, landed on the national scene. And Kidd -- 11 points, 14 assists, eight rebounds -- yanked the college hoops point guard torch from the hands of Hurley.
"That's right up there for me," Kidd said. "Winning those games -- the state championships at St. Joe's, beating Duke, winning at the Olympics and winning the NBA championship -- they're all 1A for me. Those are games you never forget."
It was, to be sure, the national coming-out party for Kidd and, moreover, for a Cal program that had received one tournament invitation in the previous 32 seasons.
"Before that, Cal was known mostly for 'The Play,' " said Kidd, referring to the football team's miracle finish against Stanford in 1982. "But that was, I think, the start of Cal being on the map, basketball-wise."
That's a fair statement insofar as Cal's NCAA tournament appearance this week will be its 11th in 21 years.
One year after the landmark victory over Duke, and a shocking first-round exit from the 1994 NCAA tournament against Wisconsin-Green Bay, Kidd declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. Dallas made him the No. 2 overall pick, after Milwaukee selected Purdue's Glenn Robinson. Detroit made Hill the third selection.
As Kidd's NBA career comes to a close -- the future Hall of Famer, now with the New York Knicks, says he wants to play at least one more season -- yet another anniversary approaches. He won't forget this one, partly because he has been hearing about it for weeks.
Kidd turns 40 on Saturday.
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