Saturday, February 25, 2006


Today is Senior Day in Champaign for the Fighting Illini basketball team, which means it is the last home game for James Augustine and Dee Brown -- currently tied with Nick Smith as the two winningest players in Illinois basketball history.

In their honor, every fan at the game will be given an orange headband imprinted with the numbers 40 and 11.

While Augie has been known to wear a headband on occasion, the orange headband has of course been all but trademarked by Dee Brown.

As his career comes to a close, it's worth noting the extent to which Dee has become so much more than a mere player w/r/t the University of Illinois. He is an ambassador for the University, yes, but even more than that he has become something of a symbol. His infectious style and demeanor have become what people envision when they think of Illinois basketball.

When you think about it, that sort of thing is very, very difficult for a player to do, seeing as they are only with the program for four years (if that). Almost all college basketball programs are identified with their coach (Coach K at Duke, Jim Calhoun at UConn) or even their ex-coach (John Wooden at UCLA, Bobby Knight at Indiana).

It really is a rare thing when a player takes on that role. It requires a player with an indelible stamp both as an outstanding player and a dominating personality. Michael Jordan still defines North Carolina basketball (for me, anyway) -- in spite of the fact that Dean Smith is the winningest coach of all time.

Not to say that Dee Brown is in that class as a player (almost no one is), but he is in that class as a personality, and it is in that respect that the Hall says goodbye to an all but irreplaceable player today.

Mr. Illini, indeed.


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