You’ve probably heard the story before, but if you haven’t, or if you simply want to refresh your memory, check out this video from ESPN on the legacy of Gathers.
The 6’7″ senior forward was a future first-round draft pick who became just the second person in NCAA Division I history to lead the nation in both scoring and rebounding when he did it the year prior (with averages of 32.7 PPG and 13.7 RPG). Paired with teammate Bo Kimble, Gathers comprised one half of the most formidable tandems in all of college basketball during that 1989-1990 season. Kimble, a 6’4″ guard, had been Gathers’ teammate in high school, as well, leading Philadelphia’s Dobbins Tech to the city championship in 1985.
Following Gathers’ untimely passing, Loyola Marymount went to the NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed and proceeded to go all the way to the Elite Eight. The four-game run was unprecedented for a mid-major school that had lost arguably its best player.
Throughout the tournament, Kimble, also a senior, decided to pay tribute to Gathers by shooting his first free throw attempt of each contest left-handed. Gathers, like Kimble, was naturally right-handed. He had struggled so greatly with his free throw shooting, however, that he had begun shooting with his left hand earlier in the season.
In three tournament games, Kimble went to the foul line. In each game, he shot his first free throw with his left hand, as promised. In each attempt, he made his free throw. Kimble went three-for-three on left-handed free throw attempts, with the nation holding its breath on every single one.
No free throw attempt was greater, however, than that very first one. Upon sinking the basket, the crowd gave Kimble a standing ovation. Players jumped off the bench and leapt in midair. There were tears. It remains as one of the most touching tributes to a teammate in sports history.
Two decades later, we remember Kimble and Gathers for the bond they shared. While Gathers left us all too early, Kimble became a first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Clippers at season’s end. He remained with the Clippers from 1990-1992, then spent the ’92-’93 season with the New York Knicks. He retired following an injury-plagued three-year career.
Even though the two have now been apart for longer than they were together, Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers will always be synonymous with one another. Today, we remember their shared history.