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NIT SEASON TIP-OFF


November 23, 2012


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Christian Laettner

David Thompson


NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

DAN GAVITT:テつ Good afternoon, everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving.テつ Thank you for being here.テつ The 2012 and 2013 season marks the 75th year of March Madness.テつ To tip off a year‑long celebration, last week we announced a number of programs on campuses Nationwide to celebrate coaches, players and moments and teams who have left their mark on this great tournament over 75 years.テつ Yesterday these three distinguished gentlemen to my left were featured on the March Madness float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade and included among the top 75 players in March Madness history.テつ Tonight we'll be paying tribute to them at halftime of the second game.
We are thrilled to have them here at the world's most famous arena.テつ You obviously know who they are, but Christian Laettner from Duke University, David Thompson, NorthCarolina State University, and Kareem Abdul‑Jabbar from UCLA.テつ Thank you for being here as we tip off a great season long celebration of March Madness.テつ Questions for these three great former players?

Q.テつ Kareem, of all the things that you've accomplished in your career, where do those UCLA championships rank?
KAREEM ABDUL‑JABBAR:テつ Well, they rank very high in my estimation, of course, for colleges and professional ranks.テつ But just who you are as a college student and what you're going through, trying to break free from being an adolescent and into your adult life and the things that happened to you there was a very special time in my life that I remember very fondly.
Of course, the professional life has other elements to it that make it distinct, but I really appreciate the things that I was able to do and enjoy and take with me from my college career.

Q.テつ Are you sometimes amazed at the life of its own the NCAA Tournament has taken on since you've played in it?テつ I mean, it was obviously big when you played, but it's really kind of gotten even bigger and more prominent now.
KAREEM ABDUL‑JABBAR:テつ I think it's great.テつ I think this is the way it should be.テつ And the fact that basketball is an American sport that we kind of developed here and the fact that so many universities are nuts about it, I think it's wonderful and makes for a great event each year and bragging rights.テつ So I think it's a really great thing for the country and for the sport too.

Q.テつ David, when you guys won, UCLA had seemed unbeatable.テつ How did you guys pierce through that mental barrier of getting past that UCLA unbeatable aura.
DAVID THOMPSON:テつ Well, they had won in several consecutive years, and I think what helped us was we were in the game to about 6 minutes left, and they blew us away at the end, and we knew we could play with them and we didn't play our best game.テつ So having played them one time and having a chance to redeem ourselves, I think that's very important.テつ They had a great team.テつ Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, Marcus Johnson, to be able to beat that team in double overtime was very exciting?

Q.テつ I was just wondering what it means to you guys to be honored at halftime in today's game?
CHRISTIAN LAETTNER:テつ It means a lot.テつ Just to be in the same sentence with these guys.テつ The greatest players in the history of the game.テつ You know, you go to one Final Four, and you really want to go to another one and you see what Kareem did and what Bill Walton and all those UCLA teams did.テつ Coach K demanded a level of excellence from us, so it was the most important thing in my life for a long time.
So to have that much fun and luck in the NCAA, and then to still be honored 20 years later is just a wonderful thing.テつ It just shows the power of NCAA basketball, and how big it is and how important it is in our country.テつ So it feels great all the time.

Q.テつ David and Christian, you guys played in two different eras of the tournament.テつ Right now we're at 68 teams.テつ Some people lament the fact that we're no longer at 64.テつ We're in a culture where everyone wants more and more and more.テつ It was rumored a few years ago it might go to 96, and plenty of writers are ready to kill themselves over that kind of thought.テつ But do you guys think 68 is good?テつ Do you wish it went back to 64 like it was in 1992?テつ Are you open to it going to 2 or 80 or even 80 or 96 in the future?テつ David, if you could go first.
DAVID THOMPSON:テつ Well, when I played there were only 25 teams that went so it was very difficult.テつ One of the reasons they changed the rules is we played in one of the greatest games ever.テつ We played University of Maryland in the finals of the ACC Tournament.テつ Only one team could represent the conference, and we were number one and they were number four.テつ We beat them in overtime.テつ I think the following year they went to 32 teams.テつ I thought that was good, and then they moved on to 64 and then 65.
So I think it's good.テつ I don't think 90‑something teams is really good, but I think it's good where it is, 65 teams, because there are so many great teams in college basketball now.テつ There is a lot of parody.
CHRISTIAN LAETTNER:テつ I don't mind.テつ I think it's just because it is so hot, and so big, and blowing up and people love it.テつ Those three weekends of basketball right now, it seems like people want more and more and more of it.テつ So go ahead and give it to them.テつ If there are a hundred teams and they have to extend it to five weekends, I don't think it dilutes it any bit.
I mean, I'm never watching TV, but I tell you, those three weekends I am glued to the set because it's so exciting, especially the first weekend when you go from 68 down to‑‑ or 64 down to 32.テつ It's just so much fun that first weekend.テつ One loss and you're out.テつ That's what everyone loves about it.テつ It's that a Goliath can be beaten by one team that plays out of their minds.テつ I think that's what people love about the NCAA Tournament.テつ It's one and done.
I don't mind if it goes up to a hundred.テつ It's going to make more money for the NCAA, and have people love basketball more.

Q.テつ Christian, do you ever get tired of hearing about the shot that you made?テつ Do you still see the guys from Duke or do you still get a chance to see Duke games?
CHRISTIAN LAETTNER:テつ I don't get tired of hearing about it.テつ I do see the guys and we stay in touch, especially Hurley and the two Hills and Brian Davis and Marty Clarke.テつ We make sure we get together every summer for Coach K's Fantasy Camp and that's where we all connect and reminisce and relive the memories.

Q.テつ Kareem, do you enjoy watching college players dunk?テつ What did you think of the rule change basically for you?テつ And the second question, you see pretty much every college coach now is so animated.テつ How did Coach Wooden coach so well with sitting there with his folded up program?
KAREEM ABDUL‑JABBAR:テつ Well, I'm glad that they restored the dunk to the game.テつ It was a crowd pleaser, and it really --
DAVID THOMPSON:テつ Me too.テつ It ruined my career.テつ My highlights of dropping in.テつ Sorry. (Laughter).
KAREEM ABDUL‑JABBAR:テつ I'm glad that that happened.テつ I think it was unfortunate that people tried to limit my effectiveness by changing the rules like that, but sometimes stuff like that happens.テつ Everybody wants to win and sometimes people go out of their way in using the wrong methods to make it an even playing field.
I think Coach Wooden's success was the fact that he really knew the game, and he wanted to do his coaching during the week before the game.テつ He didn't want to have to have any surprises.テつ He wanted us to know what we could do and what we couldn't do.テつ For us to focus on that and then go out when it came time to play, go out there and do that.
So he didn't like surprises, and he always expected us to play in the same way we practiced, and that was really a great lesson for us dealing with the issue of preparation.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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