Weekend Watch: Texas Western vs. Kentucky, 1966 NCAA Championship

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May 29th, 2020

With nearly every major sports league suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans around the world are yearning for a return to normalcy.

The sports we love will be back, but in the interim, as we wait out the virus that has turned our world upside down, it's important to stay connected to the games we love.

Our Weekend Watch feature touches on the most significant moments in sports history, and luckily for us in this modern age, many of them are viewable online, in their entirety.

1966 NCAA Basketball National Championship, Texas Western vs. Kentucky

I wanted to watch this game for its historic significance, but I left with an unexpected takeaway.

It's hard not to watch the fuzzy video and appreciate the modern game of basketball.

Plenty of hoops curmudgeons would have you believe the modern player lacks fundamentals and discipline, compared to the clean, crisp play of old.

Don't believe that for a second.

The play in this game was amazingly sloppy and the shooting was terrible. Kentucky shot 27-of-70 from the floor and only lost by seven points!

To be fair, the current college basketball player is basically in a professional environment, even though the NCAA wants you to believe amateurism still exists. The players in 1966 were not the polished college athletes we're used to seeing now.

That doesn't diminish from the significance of this game, though, which pitted the all-white Wildcats against the first all-black starting lineup in college basketball.

If not for Pat Riley's play — yes, that Pat Riley — Kentucky would have been blown out by Texas Western (now UTEP), but I kept getting distracted from the game by the accoutrements of the time, most glaringly the goofy, leaping cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Another sign of the times was the presence of long-armed Texas Western center Dave Lattin, who looked like a beast on the floor and unleashed a thunderous dunk early in the first half. At 6-foot-6, he was essentially the size of a modern shooting guard.

Even though it still took five more seasons for a black player to suit up for Kentucky, the 1966 title game forever changed the sport.