The backboard and rim at Fitzgerald Field House survived 25 minutes of the Pittsburgh-Providence game on January 25, 1988.
The cause of death? Pitt’s Jerome Lane.
It was Big Monday on ESPN. The Pittsburgh Panthers were decimating Big East conference opponent Providence when Pitt freshman point guard and current Arizona head coach Sean Miller grabbed a loose ball.
Miller led a three-on-two fast break down the middle of the court with teammate Jason Matthews on his left and Lane on the right.
A brief, stunned pause was broken by broadcaster Bill Raftery delivering an ecstatic call: “Send it in, Jerome!”
Raftery’s call immortalized the backboard-breaking dunk in basketball fans’ memories.
Jerome Lane’s Backboard-Breaking Dunk
Jerome Lane’s dunk requires second and third takes to realize what the hell just happened. It looks like a normal fast break, but upon rewatch you can see Lane load up for take-off near the free-throw line. The hoop saw its life flash before its eyes as Lane delivered the devastating blow.
The college basketball dunk was the highlight of the Akron, Ohio native’s career. The St. Vincent-St. Mary High School alumnus — a title shared with LeBron James — was selected 23rd overall in the 1988 NBA Draft. He played five seasons in the NBA before finding more success in the defunct Continental Basketball Association.
Raftery, who now works for CBS Sports, repeated the call in the Final Four of the 2019 NCAA Tournament when Virginia’s Ty Jerome hit a three to put the Hoos up 10 over Auburn.
ESPN.com ranked the play as the greatest dunk of all time a few years ago.
The backboard died doing what it loved: getting hammered.
Gone but never forgotten.
This post was originally published on March 31, 2020.