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What Was His Name? Harvard Edition

Posted on Mar 19, 2015 by

Selection Sunday is a fascinating day. In the time leading up to the reveal of the bracket people banter back and forth about which teams would be a good or bad matchup for their school, potential Cinderellas, overrated and underrated teams, the awesome March Madness music, Doug Gottlieb’s face, yada yada yada.

However, once the bracket is revealed they don’t really know what to think. They turn to the Internets or friends for reinforcement about how to perceive a certain matchup. After all, if you’re not the first to call an upset it doesn’t count in your bracket pool. When the brackets were revealed and the world learned that Harvard would be North Carolina’s first round second round opponent to open up the NCAA Tournament, this brief column or whatever you want to call it was the ninth item that popped in my head.

My thoughts, in order, when the bracket was revealed:

  1. Harvard, hmm? What’s Twitter say?
  2. *Pulling Twitter up* The academic jokes should be lovely
  3. OH NO! Look away from the Twitter
  4. Winner plays Arkansas or Wofford in the second round third round
  5. Wisconsin and Arizona? Dayum
  6. Of course Gonzaga is Duke’s 2-seed
  7. Hey look, there is NC State
  8. Enjoy your four play-in games, Kentucky
  9. I’m going to have to write about Jeremy Lin, aren’t I?

Surely if you polled even the most fervent college basketball or professional basketball fans, the lone former Harvard player they could reference would be Jeremy Lin. This is understandable. He’s one of just four Harvard players to ever play in the NBA or ABA and the first since good ole’ Ed Smith in 1958. Linsanity took over this country about the time Tim Tebow was performing football miracles like the saint he is. It was a happier, albeit annoying, time in sports where Linsanity and Tebow dominated the headlines rather that domestic abuse and concussions.

Lin would be the easy choice here, but I don’t take the easy route here at “What Was His Name.” Instead I decided to dig deeper into the depths of Harvard basketball. What I found was a massive oversight by us in the viewing public. Sure, Lin is the only player in Harvard history to average in double figures in scoring in the NBA. He’s scored nearly 3,000 more points in the NBA than any other Crimson (?) yet  he’s not even the most successful former Harvard-baller out there.

Arne Duncan is a three time NBA All-Star participant. He won the Most Valuable Player award at the NBA All-Star weekend when he scored a record game-high 20 points. Sure, this might be the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game but I’ll take those accolades over Lin’s NBA Rising Stars appearance any day of the week.

Duncan played basketball for the Crimson during the mid-1980s. He was co-captain of the team and named an Academic All-American just like North Carolina’s Marcus Paige. Clearly the similarities between the programs, schools and players have no bounds. After college Duncan played professionally in Australia from 1987-91. However, Duncan really didn’t hit his stride on the professional circuits until 2014 when he was named the MVP of the NBA Celebrity All-Star game after notching 20 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Comedian Kevin Hart was voted the MVP but conceded the award to Duncan in the most shocking moment of Hart’s career to date.

Oh, yeah. Duncan is the United States Secretary of Education. No big deal. He’s got that MVP trophy to parade in front of President Obama.

Bryan Ives — Contributing Editor

Affiliations: ESPNU, SBJ, IC,

Bio: Bryan made the peculiar decision a few years back to leave the finance industry and pursue sports journalism with his blog, Thrown Away To Worthy. So far, so good as Bryan has worked and written for Inside Carolina, SportsBusiness Journal and currently for ESPNU / SEC Network (gasp!). A Charlotte native, Bryan is a proud Tar Heel alumnus with a brief stop at Northwestern.


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