Atlanta • The last of the Louisville players to get the scissors, Kevin Ware stood in front of the basket as it was lowered to him. Grinning from ear to ear, he cut what remained of the net.
"It's not about me, I've never been that type of guy," Ware said. "These are my brothers. They got the job done."
They always do.
A team that found inspiration in Ware's horrible broken leg wasn't about to let a little thing like an off night by its biggest star, Russ Smith, keep it from cutting down the nets.
In the most touching moment of all, Ware hobbled onto the court for the final seconds of the game. He had urged his teammates to "just go win" after his tibia snapped during the Midwest Regional final, and he made good on his promise to join them when they cut down the nets.
"Kevin Ware would do anything to be out there. We were just all locked in for him, and also for ourselves and our coaching staff," said forward Chane Behanan, Ware's best friend on the team. "Kevin was a big part of this team, and to see him go down was devastating. It was a big motivator for us."
Ware's horrific injury his bone protruded through the skin would have left most teams reeling. But he became their inspiration instead, urging his teammates to "just go win the game" to get to the Final Four, then accompanying his teammates to his hometown of Atlanta just three days later.
And while his absence left Louisville short-handed, don't underestimate the emotional lift he provided. The Cardinals even tweaked their warm-up T-shirts to read "Ri5e to the Occasion," with Ware's No. 5 on the back.
"I've never seen such affection, such spontaneous emotion," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I look back on it and say, 'Man, that was really, really special.'"