SPRINGDALE - It may have taken 15 years to get around to honoring the University of Arkansas' 1994 NCAA Championship team, but it was done in style on Saturday night and will continue on Sunday when the Razorbacks host Georgia.
Some 600 fans paid $100 a ticket to honor the UA's only national championship basketball team in an event dubbed Celebration of A Championship at the Northwest Arkansas Holiday Inn.
Current Razorback head coach John Pelphrey was among those who lavished praise on legendary Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson and his players – with all but two of the 16 on the roster that were on hand.
"You are the reason that all of us – as coaches and players - now feel so honored to be Razorbacks," Pelphrey said. "I want you to understand that I don't just look at that uniform as another jersey. I see it as a sacred piece of cloth that demands our best on a daily basis. I want you to know we are committed to that and we won't let you down."
The 1994 national championship team will be honored at halftime of Sunday's game at Bud Walton Arena between Arkansas and Georgia.
There were video messages from Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe and former President Bill Clinton played during the event, speeches from each player and a passionate one from Richardson.
"I have always been about these kids – and I still call them kids – and I am so happy this day has finally arrived for them," Richardson said.
The Celebration was so long in coming because of the acrimony that surrounded Richardson's firing in 2001 and subsequent lawsuit that he filed against the UA.
But that all seemed ancient history as Richardson and his players received numerous standing ovations and were showered with love reserved for champions.
"This is something that you will never forget as long as you live," Richardson said.
Arkansas went 31-3 that season and capped off the campaign by downing Duke 76-72 in the national championship game in Charlotte, N.C.
"I really think our basketball team was a group that played together," Richardson said. "I thought it was important and I still think it was important for a team to trust one another.
"We were a good passing team, pretty good rebounding team, pretty good shooting team and everybody shared the wealth," Richardson added. "I had a bench that shared the wealth. They knew they had to play a part in our winning and our losing. I had to have trust in all of them. … They fed off of that and fed off the fact that every day in practice was competition. We had more competition at times in practice than we did the games."
While Davor Rimac and Elmer Martin were unable to make it Saturday, the other 14 reveled in being together, according to Scotty Thurman.
"This is a beautiful thing," Thurman said. "For me, the biggest thing was being able to see my teammates. I still live in Arkansas so I get a chance to come and see things and I'm asked about the championship season all the time.
"But for these guys to be able to come back, the ones that don't live here, to experience it and see what it really, really means to be a Razorback and see how much you have affected the fans and the kids, it is great to see them receive that type of appreciation."
Thurman's 3-pointer off an assist from Dwight Stewart with 51.7 seconds left and the shot clock winding down against Duke is always described as the biggest shot in Razorback history.
"I hear some people talk about that being a prayer," the always confident Thurman noted. "Go back and look at some of those other shots (I made). It wasn't a prayer.
"I would like to thank Dwight for fumbling that ball, but I know that if he had taken the shot he would have hit it," Thurman continued. "Or Corliss (Williamson) or Corey (Beck) would have gotten the rebound and put it back in. We were going to win one way or the other."
Beck said that the extra ingredient Arkansas had over others was chemistry.
"We did everything together," Beck said. "We went to eat together, we went bowling together, we were brothers and we were a team."
Williamson was the only member of the '94 team who went on to NBA success, eventually winning a championship with the Detroit Pistons.
But he noted it was not as special as the one he won at Arkansas.
"Being a kid from Arkansas, growing up rooting for the Hogs and then being blessed to have a chance to be a Razorback and then winning the national championship in 1994, there is nothing more special," Williamson said. "This is my family, these are my brothers."
Celebration of A Championship
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