The 2005 team was great - we all know this. 37-2, and the 2 losses by a combined 6 points. What do you mean I haven't gotten over it? But what made them special -- and Dee, Deron, and Luther in particular -- is they left an impression. People still remember them, more than they should, given the time elapsed. It's been nine years. It was an iconic team - in some ways THE iconic college basketball team of the last decade.
They were iconic not just because of Dee's exuberance, the jersey pop, the Sports Illustrated cover, and the flirtation with an unbeaten regular season, but because having three guards that good was unprecedented. Deep down, fans love guards the most - partly for entertainment value, partly because they're more or less our size, even if they can jump higher. And, guards are what make college basketball tick, and we had the back court to end all back courts. The 2005 Illini were endearing in a special kind of way - they were about what you would make if you created a team from scratch in a video game.
In what remains a favorite little fact of mine^, ALL THREE of our guards made an Associated Press All-American team. There are 3 teams, with 5 spots each. There are 15 All-American spots. 1/5 of the spots in 2005 were awarded to guards playing for the University of Illinois. If we assume there are something like 50 teams who could roster an All-American player, and you multiply those 50 teams by their 5 starters, you have somewhat arbitrarily* reduced the pool of possible All-American players to 250 players. Six percent, or 15, of those players are named an All-American. The odds of any given team having one player make the team are low. To have three players from a team to make it is quite unlikely, but not impossible I suppose given the recent development of mega-teams. To have three guards from the same team, whose roles overlap, and from a non-dynastical program, achieve All-American status? That's basically impossible.
I got here by twitter searching dee, deron, or luther. I do that sometimes, whether to check on Deron's daily drama with the Brooklyn Nets, to see what Dee and Luther are doing, or maybe (probably) subconsciously to scratch a nostalgic itch. What I find always amazes me. People still tweet about those three, and often seemingly out of the blue! If they're not reminiscing, they still remember them ("dee brown, the illinois guy"). Nine years later, and that backcourt still lives on its little way in our sporting culture.
Dee Brown, Luther Head and Williams was one of the best back courts in college— THA CARTER (@MIDDUB10ST) January 30, 2014
I watched him play at Illinois with Luther Head, fun team to watch, disaster ever since.— Saul Goodman (@BronxBomber45) January 28, 2014
Deron Williams and Luther Head at Illinois, boys used to be good together.— Gordon Gekko (@ThatGentleman) January 27, 2014
@JabTannen word up. Williams was shittin at Illinois and Paul was at Wake Forrest. Whatever happened to Dee Brown and Luther Head? Lol— Coach Harvbaugh (@loyaltynlove24) January 26, 2014
@1Rell_Of_A_Guy ahh Dee Brown.. That's who.. And Luther head was in the league.. Forgot about him— Michael D (@Justbelikemike) January 31, 2014
Dee Brown From Illinois Is A Rapper Now... Lol— Sam Smith (@ExtraGram__Sam) January 30, 2014
What ever happened to Dee Brown? He was actually better than Deron Williams when they was at Illinois— Pam Grier follows (@shortz203) January 30, 2014
I thought this was cool. Mike Goodman writes about soccer for Grantland and is based in Latvia, and apparently watches the local basketball team because Dee Brown is on the team.
@kevinmdraper I get to watch Dee Brown play on a regular basis.— Mike L. Goodman (@TheM_L_G) October 8, 2013
illinois arizona 05 elite 8 game was incredible. deron williams, dee brown, luther dome— Jake Acosta (@jacosta25) January 26, 2014
Luther Head, Deron, Dee Brown.. That game where they came back against Arizona in 2005 was unreal.— John Ledesma (@JohnnyNBA) January 6, 2014
Dee brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, Roger Powell >>>— Maceo Lozan♻⚾️ (@LilLozan4) November 9, 2013
A lot of these tweets were from the past week, roughly. Do the same 6 months from now, and I'd likely get the same results. A steady patter, nine years on.
Now, I don't know if doing twitter searches is robust analysis. Maybe Sean May, Raymond Felton, and Rashad McCants live on in the same way. But I doubt it.
^another trivium the non-obsessed always forget: Luther Head was the leading scorer.
*Damian Lillard played at Weber St., after all
Full disclosure: not drunk, just awake.