Walter Davis in the miracle win over Duke
Jeff Taylor's Eurovision
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Thanksgiving tribute to 'Sweet D', Knight, Packer, Avramovic

VALENCIA (Jeff Taylor's Eurovision) - Thanksgiving is absolutely, unequivocally my favorite holiday. It's the best.

Family, feast and football. And of course, basketball.

I picked up our pre-ordered turkey on Tuesday and on Thursday, it's coming out of the oven. We'll also be having the stuffing, along with sweet potatoes and marshmallows.

Many American players competing for teams in Europe will be having a Thanksgiving dinner.

This day is special because as its name indicates, it's time to give thanks for family, for friends and if you're reading this column, for basketball.

The sport has been a huge part of my life. I'm reminded of that every single day.

Someone in basketball that I'm thankful for, 1976 USA Olympian Walter Davis, passed away on November 2 at the age of 69.

Walter Davis (far left, bottom row) helped the USA win gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympics

Davis, aka "Sweet D" and "The Greyhound", played at UNC Chapel Hill where his coach was Dean Smith, a member of both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and FIBA Hall of Fame.

Smith also coached Davis in the Olympic team that won the '76 gold medal in Montreal.

Davis was a part of a moment in ACC basketball lore that will never be forgotten. It happened on March 2, 1974, in Carmichael Auditorium on the UNC campus, when he was playing for the Tar Heels against Duke. He capped a frantic comeback with a shot at the buzzer to force overtime and Carolina ended up winning, 96-92.

The Devils were up eight with 17 seconds on the clock. Victory was all but theirs, yet it wasn't!

Bobby Jones, who played in the USA team that fell in the controversial 1972 Olympic Final to the USSR, made two free throws.

Davis stole the ensuing inbound pass and fed John Kuester for a layup. After a timeout, Duke's inbound pass went off one of their own and out of bounds. Carolina then gave the ball to Jones near the basket and he banked it in to cut the deficit to 86-84.

The Blue Devils successfully inbounded the ball to Pete Kramer but he was fouled and with three seconds left was errant at the free-throw line.  UNC rebounded and called timeout.

Duke had a man guarding the inbound passer yet Davis was able to catch a long throw before turning and crossing mid court. After three dribbles, he stopped and popped, a 25-foot banker, to force overtime. 

The shot would have been a three-pointer in today’s game but it had yet to be introduced. Carolina won in OT, 96-92.

Davis went on to have a long and successful pro career. His nephew, Hubert, followed in his footsteps by playing at UNC and then in the NBA. Hubert is now in his third year as coach of the Heels.

I'm thankful for Davis and players like him, for igniting my interest in, and passion for, the sport.

I'm thankful for Bobby Knight, who passed just one day before Davis, at the age of 83. Knight was the coach of the USA team that won the 1984 Los Angeles Games gold medal. He was the last coach to lead a team made up of only collegians to the top of the Olympic podium.

Knight led Indiana to an unbeaten record and NCAA title in 1976, the last time a team pulled off that amazing feat.

"The General" was controversial, yet he did a lot of good for a lot of people. When Knight was coach at Army, one of his players was Mike Krzyzewski. Knight had a profound impact on "Coach K", one of the all-time greats as Duke coach, and the USA national team coach from 2006 through 2016. 

I'm thankful for having listened to Billy Packer call so many basketball games as a color commentator on TV. Packer had been a terrific point guard at Wake Forest, yet I only knew him as one of the all-time greats on the mic.

I'm thankful for his wisdom because I think it's helped me do my job today, whether it's writing or calling games.

Packer, 82, died this year, in January.

I'm thankful that I cover international basketball, from watching icons Pau Gasol, Luis Scola, Dirk Nowitzki and Theo Papaloukas to seeing today's players.

Being courtside as Germany lifted the Naismith Trophy this year was special at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Manila, as was bearing witness to Latvia's magical summer as they overcame numerous obstacles to come in fifth. It all deepened my love for the game.

We love basketball because of players like Alesksa Avramovic

I'm thankful for unheralded players like Aleksa Avramovic, who took center stage for Serbia in some of their games at the World Cup.

It didn't seem like the opportunity of a lifetime when he was repeatedly selected for Serbia as far back as the European Qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup, yet it was and he's made the most of it. Now he's one of the best players in his national team.

He's a shining example for all players, to all people. When you get a chance to be a part of something special, you grab it with both hands and make the most of it.

Thanksgiving is a great holiday. It always reminds me of how much there is to be thankful for.

Jeff Taylor

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article. 

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor, a North Carolina native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate, has been a journalist since 1990. He started covering international basketball after moving to Europe in 1996. Jeff provides insight and opinion every week about players and teams on the old continent that are causing a buzz.