MEMPHIS, Tenn — Memphis, just like every other place, has had it rough over the past year. We endured sickness, death, and job losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. We had a record number of homicides in 2020, and our COVID vaccination effort got off to a shaky start.
So it’s safe to say we needed something to celebrate, and Sunday, we got it – courtesy of the University of Memphis men’s basketball team. The Tigers captured the 2021 National Invitational Tournament championship with a dominating win over Mississippi State. It was the school’s first NIT title since 2002 – and only the second national basketball championship in school history.
Some may argue that the NIT is not comparable to the NCAA tournament, but it’s still a national title. Besides, there was a time when the NIT was the more prestigious of the two tournaments. So a championship of any kind against a quality opponent is worth celebrating. Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway and his gritty bunch of players deserve credit for overcoming tremendous adversity during the season – including several postponed and canceled games due to a COVID outbreak among the team. Even then, they came together as the season wound down – and very nearly earned a trip to the Big Dance.
Sports always has a way of bringing a community together, and in a year full of despair, the Tigers gave us something to cheer about. And that’s my point of view. I’m Otis Sanford, for Local 24 News.