IOWA CITY, Iowa — Nearly every fan who passed Steve Waite in an autograph line last Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena brought up the greatest play in Iowa basketball history.
And it never gets old.
“I think about it once in a while,” said Waite, who now lives in the Des Moines area. “It’s amazing how many times people come up on the street and say, ‘Hey, I remember you playing with the Final Four team.’ The memories. Iowa fans are great.”
If you’re an Iowa basketball fan age 50 or older, you know the shot. If you’re not …
In the 1980 Elite Eight at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, the Hawkeyes and No. 20 Georgetown were tied 78-78 with just seconds remaining. Iowa guard Kevin Boyle passed to Waite left of the basket. Waite dribbled around a Georgetown defender, saw an opening and drove to the hoop. He was met at the rim by Georgetown’s Craig Shelton. Waite laid the ball off the glass, and Shelton hit him with his body. The ball fell through the net, Shelton was charged with his fifth foul and Waite went to the free-throw line with four seconds left.
Waite, who averaged 8.0 points a game as a junior, sank the free throw. Georgetown tipped in a basket with a second left, but Iowa successfully inbounded the ball to win, 81-80. The traditional 3-point play sent Iowa to its third (and most recent) trip to the Final Four, and it provided Waite, an Iowa City native, with Hawkeye immortality.
A knee injury sidelined star guard Ronnie Lester midway through the Hawkeyes’ Final Four matchup with Louisville, and Iowa lost the game. But Waite’s 3-point play lives on.
So does Waite ever have to buy a beer in the state of Iowa?
“Well, yeah,” he said. “That 1980 team, that was a long time ago, so people forget. But what a great time, great memories.
“It’s a great group of guys. We’re very close. We’ve stayed close after that team way back in those days. It’s combination of a great group of guys and the fans in the state of Iowa.
“It’s something about Iowa, the state of Iowa that just keeps pulling former players back.”