INDIANAPOLIS: Nolan Smith did it for his dad.
Thirty years after his late father won a national championship in this city, Smith and his Duke teammates took home their own title, beating Butler 61-59 on Monday night.
Derek Smith was a sophomore forward on the Louisville team that beat UCLA 59-54 in 1980. Nolan Smith is a junior guard who matched his father's accomplishment.
Nolan Smith has kept his father's championship ring with him. Now he has his own.
"I can't explain how happy I am," he said on the court right after the Blue Devils' victory. "This is for my dad. Like father, like son. This is so special to me right now."
About 5 hours before Smith had 13 points and four assists to help Duke win its fourth national championship, he sent a tweet letting everyone know who was on his mind:
"Family here we gooo!! Dad (No.) 43 got the best seat in the house!, mom, syd, curt,lex! I love yall!! Time to go to work! `This is it' Duke!!"
Smith's mother, Monica, was on his mind when the game ended.
"I found her immediately, which is hard to do because I have a little mom, but I had to find her and blow her a kiss," Smith said, sitting in front of his locker. "She was the first one to tell me if we won that I would do what my dad did. So when I found her I told her I loved her."
Duke's No. 2 had just turned 8 when his father, an NBA player for nine seasons, died on a cruise of an apparent heart attack at age 34.
At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Nolan Smith is about 4 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than his father, who had nine points and five rebounds in his championship game.
Now they both are on the long list of players with a college championship to their credit. They also are on a short list of fathers and sons with national titles.
The others are Henry Bibby of UCLA (1971, '72, '73) and Mike of Arizona (1997); Marques Johnson of UCLA (1975) and Kris of UCLA (1995); and Scott May of Indiana (1976) and Sean of North Carolina (2005).
Now the Smiths are even closer.
Sometimes the special bond takes a little longer.
"It's terrific," Nolan Smith said as a huge smile crossed his face. "This means a lot to my mom. I looked up and saw her really rejoicing up there. It's amazing."
Even though they both won their titles in Indianapolis, the scenes were as different as the game has become over the last three decades.
Derek Smith and his teammates won it all in Market Square Arena, a basketball-only building that no longer exists, before a crowd of 16,637.
Nolan Smith, whose middle name is Derek, and his teammates won in Lucas Oil Stadium, a new football stadium, in front of 70,930.
It was years before Nolan Smith was able to talk openly about the loss of his father. A television documentary last year helped him open up.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called it "a great cleansing thing for Nolan — it lifted a big burden from Nolan, because it told the story in a very good way, and he didn't have to tell the story. He never wanted to tell the story."
Now he's written a storybook ending to a painful experience — and there's a second ring for a father and son to share.