UNC National Championship Celebration at the Dean Smith Center on Tuesday. | ©Chris White
UNC National Championship Celebration at the Dean Smith Center on Tuesday. | ©Chris White

48 hours later and it still hasn’t sunk in: NATIONAL. CHAMPIONS.

After Carolina’s victory on Monday night, I looked up to the sky and said, “This one’s for you, Bobbie.” That’s what I called my maternal grandmother. When I was a wee little thing, I called her “Baba” for some reason. The name progressed into something more “mature” as I got older, thus “Bobbie” was created. She was the first of my grandparents to pass away and Carolina hadn’t won a National Championship since…until now.

Despite all the haters and the naysayers. Despite the injuries and the adversity. The Heels did it. Carolina got the redemption it so ferociously sought after last season’s heartbreaking – and well-publicized – defeat in the title game.  There were so many emotions, so many thoughts going on in my head during and after this year’s game. In fact, I did something I’d never done before while watching: I stopped watching. Yep, I turned the television off, went up to my room and listened to the Tar Heel Sports Network call the rest of the way. I just couldn’t take watching it. All the while, I kept thinking to myself that Gonzaga played much like the Heels in the second half, which was not very well. If the game continued like that, I knew in my heart that there was a chance for something magical to happen. It did.

I can now say that I’ve been a part of three National Championships in just 12 years. Technically four even though I was one year old when it happened (1993). UNC has earned its sixth NCAA Title (seventh National Title overall counting the 1924 Helms Foundation Championship). Roy Williams – who has been doubted and criticized more than any coach in America – has three, all at his alma mater, surpassing his mentor, Dean Smith. Coach Williams has also joined elite company of coaches with at least three National Championships. The others? John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight, Jim Calhoun and Mike Krzyzewski. And here’s a crazy stat: Carolina improved to 4-0 in National Championship games that feature a one-seed vs. one-seed matchup. That is insane!

I checked the “On This Day” section of my Facebook feed early Tuesday morning. Ironically, posts I made regarding last season’s title game loss to Villanova and a memory of the Heels’ 2005 National Championship popped up. I remember where I was during each of those championship runs. 2005 and 2009 were spent watching the games at “Bobbie’s” house with her and my mom. We watched the games in the basement so I could nervously pace the floor and jump around. I was in grade school at the time and went to class the following day running on a few hours of sleep and pure adrenaline. 2016 contained much of the same and it was the first game I truly cried over. Just the way the Heels lost –  plus everything else that had happened in my life from the end of 2015 to then – got to me.

Not much changed this year. I still paced the floor. I still jumped around. I still operated the next day on a few hours of sleep and adrenaline. But I will always remember 2005, 2009 and, now, 2017. I will always remember being nervous, fussing at the television, seeing Franklin Street packed to the brim with thousands of excited fans and, yes, crying when “One Shining Moment” was played. What a ride. I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this one!

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