NEW ORLEANS -- That Anthony Davis found himself with the ball as the final seconds ticked off Kentucky's 69-61 victory over Louisville seemed fitting because the current National Player of the Year and future No. 1 pick of the NBA Draft is the main reason the Wildcats lived to dribble another day.
He got 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in 39 minutes.
Then he got the ball in the final seconds, held it till the buzzer sounded and tossed it into the air, at which point he started yelling one of three things to the announced crowd of 73,361 here at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. I thought he yelled "This is my sh-t!" Others thought he yelled "This is my state!" But Davis swore late Saturday that the words were actually "This is my stage!" So now everybody is confused.
"I said 'This is my stage,'" Davis told the assembled media with a smile. "We're from Kentucky. We're built for this."
"Did you say that?" asked UK coach John Calipari.
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"Yeah," Davis confirmed.
"Don't ask him a follow-up," Calipari said. "He doesn't know why he was saying that."
Kentucky teammates Darius Miller and Marquis Teague were laughing pretty hard while this exchange happened. Davis was, too. Which makes me think he just didn't want to admit on live national television that he was yelling "This is my sh-t!" But whatever. Does it even matter? Because regardless of what Davis actually said -- state, stage or sh-t -- the truth is that any of the three work and seem appropriate.
This is my state!
It's hard to argue, isn't it? The 6-foot-11 freshman is from Chicago but undeniably the most popular athlete in the state of Kentucky now. Otherwise normal humans are growing unibrows in his honor. The Kentucky mascot has a unibrow. So if Davis proclaimed that Kentucky is his state, hey, that's cool with me. This world might actually be his world.
This is my stage!
I can't argue with that, either. The nation's most talked about prospect is on college basketball's biggest stage trying to become the first future top overall pick to enter the NBA Draft off a championship since Kansas star Danny Manning did it in 1988, and he performed beautifully in a game that was unusually hyped because it featured rival programs and coaches. Davis showed off his ever-improving hookshot, caught alley-oops only he can catch and blocked shots only he can block. Then Louisville coach Rick Pitino compared his impact on the Kentucky Wildcats to the impact Bill Russell once made with the Boston Celtics.
"The difference [in the game], quite frankly, [was] just [that] Anthony Davis [will be] the No. 1 player picked in the draft," Pitino said. "When you're playing against Bill Russell at the pro level, you realize why the Celtics won 11 world championships. When you see this young man at the collegiate level, you realize why they're so good."
This is my sh-t!
I think I'm OK with that, too. Because this is Davis' sh-t and it's been his sh-t for much of the season. It's why he's collecting player of the year awards like poor people do losing lottery tickets, and when he plays well it's difficult to envision a scenario where Kentucky loses Monday night. Oh, sure, the Wildcats can lose Monday night in the sense that it's possible because it's just a 40-minute game and they're always capable of shooting poorly from 3-point range to let an inferior team hang around like they let an inferior Louisville team hang around Saturday. Remember, it was 49-49 with less than nine minutes remaining and the Cardinals appeared on the verge of an upset until Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones and Davis started their own little dunk contest. It was close for a while and the Wildcats could've lost. So of course they can lose Monday.
But if Davis plays well then Kentucky will play well.
And if Kentucky plays well, then Kentucky will climb ladders and cut nets.
That's basically what Pitino said after Saturday's game. And though I'm still not 100 percent certain what Davis yelled after Saturday's game, I do know this: The talented big is one more monster performance from winning this sh-t for his state on this stage, and then a whole bunch of people are gonna be yelling and throwing things in the air, too.