Mario Chalmers wouldn't mind if highlights shows replayed his shot until the end of time... which they probably will.
Luther Head hasn't watched his shot again, has no plans to do so and, for a while, recoiled when anyone even innocently raised the subject.
They share a locker room. They share a position for the Heat when both are healthy. And they will forever share a rare distinction. As starting guards for their respective collegiate teams, Chalmers and Head each found themselves in down-to-the-wire NCAA championship games, and each had a make-or-miss shot at basketball immortality.
Chalmers in 2008, for Kansas against Memphis.
Head in 2005, for Illinois against North Carolina.
Chalmers made his. Kansas won.
"People say it's one of the greatest shots in NCAA history, so I will probably always be remembered by that," Chalmers says of his game-tying 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left in regulation. "At the same time, if I had missed it.... yeah, that would have been tough."
Head missed his. Illinois lost.
"A wide-open three," Head says, shaking his head.
Instead, he shot it long, off the back rim, with 16 seconds left. He could have made up for his critical turnover on the previous possession. Instead, Raymond Felton made two free throws for the final 75-70 margin.
"For the longest, I used to hate when people brought it up," Head says. "I still ain't watched the game. It stuck. It really stuck."
Five in NCAA Final
So what will stick with the participants in Monday's NCAA championship game?
Five members of the Heat - more than any other NBA team - are uniquely qualified to answer.
Jamaal Magloire (won with Kentucky), Daequan Cook (lost with Ohio State) and Udonis Haslem (lost with Florida) also played in championship games.
"That's crazy," Head says.
It's even more remarkable when you consider that two of the Heat's other 10 players ( Jermaine O'Neal, Dorell Wright) skipped college and Jamario Moon attended community college. And it's not like all the other seven guys had plentiful opportunities: Michael Beasley left Kansas State after one season and Yakhouba Diawara spent two seasons at junior college before transferring to Pepperdine for his final two.
"Damn, five guys?" Chalmers says. "It makes it easier for us to come together because we have so many winners."
And that's even if you don't include NBA champion Dwyane Wade, who made it to the Final Four in 2003, but then lost to a Kansas team that didn't include Chalmers. Chalmers regularly kids Wade about that hole on his resume.
"Yeah, you wish you would have," Wade says of reaching the NCAA Final. "If I didn't go to the Final Four, because the Final Four is so big, then it might be a little different. But when we start having the conversations about colleges and I've got to end it after Mario says 'I won a championship,' I just throw my triple-double out there, and let them know I'm one of the only ones to do that. So it evens out."
That triple-double, in Marquette's regional final win, convinced Kentucky alumnus Pat Riley to draft the star who had just destroyed his team.
So what do the NCAA finalists remember?
They remember being tired or edgy. Chalmers spent most of the previous night talking with roommate Darrell Arthur about seizing the opportunity. Cook "slept great," but woke up nervous, and talked to family and friends as little as possible during the day. Head started to understand what his coach, Bruce Weber, had predicted about how the pressure would affect the players. The Final Four matchup with Louisville had felt like just another game.
"But once you got in the National Championship, and you knew it was your last game, something about it, man," Head says. "I was a senior. That was it. The night before, I didn't get any sleep. Forget about sleep."
Haslem and Magloire were sophomores, and both stayed two more seasons. But two other Heat players - Cook and Chalmers - finished their college careers in the championship game. Cook was a freshman. He played only nine minutes, and was left wondering if his presence could have helped. Chalmers wasn't left with any such questions. He had missed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Texas earlier in the season, and he had studied his form and balance.
'You can never think twice when you get that chance," Chalmers says. "You've just got to let it flow and see what happens."
It went in. And that contributed to his decision to leave school, because "NBA teams started looking at me more."
Head has a harder time looking back, at what remains the most intense night of his basketball career.
"They're going to see," Head says. "It's going to be an experience. It ain't going to be like a Final Four, it ain't going to be like a conference tournament game where you go six overtimes. It ain't going to be anything like that."
Ethan J. Skolnick can be reached at email@example.comCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times