“I played with Hank for 11 years, and there’s no better story about his heart and resilience than the LSU game. You did a great job blocking the first five shots, but good luck trying to stop the next 30.” Said Bo Kimble on Hank Gathers.
Throwbacks don’t get much better than this 1990 game between LSU and Loyola Marymount.
Loyola had the late great Hank Gathers, who passed away one month after this game during a game against the Portland Pilots (Erik Spoelstra was the point guard for the Pilots and was near Gathers when he collapsed after an alley-oop dunk). Loyola also had future NBA lottery pick and bust Bo Kimble. For LSU, they had Chris Jackson, who I consider one of the best freshman and scorers in NCAA history, and Shaq, who I consider the most dominant player in NCAA history (I know a lot of people are shaking their heads on that comment, and they should, especially Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton and Wilt fans).
Jackson played two years at LSU and it only took two weeks to let the world know about his scoring ability as he scored 48 and 53 points in the first month of his college career. His season-high of 55 (with nine three-pointers) came soon after against Ole Miss and he would go on to average 30 points as a freshman and set the NCAA freshman scoring record with 966 points. During his sophomore season, Jackson scored 40+ points 11 times, 50+ points four times and topped his three-point barrage against Ole Miss by hitting 10 three-pointers against Tennessee.
As for the 286 pound, 17-year old Shaq, he became the first SEC player to block more than 100 shots in a season and recorded two triple-doubles with blocks. Usually when you see a triple double with blocks, it’s going to be exactly 10 blocks to go with 10-15 rebounds and 10-20 points. On this special day, Shaq had 12 blocks (a school record) to go with 20 points and 24 boards in a 148-141 win. Yes, you read that correctly, Shaq had 20/24/12 in a 148-141 win in a college basketball game. After the game, everybody was exhausted except for the teenage beast.
“Everybody just laid on the floor in silence, thankful that it was over. Everybody but Shaq: He was still hyped, clowning and jumping around. He was a big kid, all excited that we just won on national TV, and we had to tell him, ‘Leave us alone, man! Let us rest.'”
During Shaq’s induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, Shaq talked about Gathers and that classic game.
“They had Bo Kimble and the great Hank Gathers. Rest in peace Hank,” O’Neal recalled. “Coach Brown came to me and said, ‘Big fella, can you play?’ I said, ‘I like running, you make us run every day in practice.’ Coach said, ‘This guy you are playing against is a pro player but he’s still in college. This guy won’t quit.’ So I’m like who is it? I’m looking at Hank Gathers and he’s 6-7 and I’m going to be all right. I kind of had my way with him but he’s the only player that kept coming back. I think I blocked his shot like 10 or 12 times, he kept coming back. I think he ended up with 40-something (48) points.”
Shaq would end up with six triple doubles (all with blocks) during his three-year career at LSU, but even more surprising is that his most impressive triple-double wasn’t this one, but one against the New Jersey Nets in the NBA. On November 20th of 1993, as an encore to his backboard breaking against the Nets, Shaq put up 24 points (12-19 fg), 28 rebounds and 15 blocks in just 36 minutes! The 28 is a career-high and the the 15 tied Manute Bol for 2nd all-time in a single game.
When Shaq won the NBA rookie of the year award, he said one day he’s going to be able to tell his kids that he was a “bad man.” Looking back at games like these reminds people of just how bad he really was. But, the Marymount video also reminds me how sad it is to see a great career end before it even began.