North Carolina center and West Charlotte product Kennedy Meeks has made the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.
The magazine features a photo of Meeks’ blocked shot in the final 20 seconds of Monday’s victory over Gonzaga in the NCAA championship game in Glendale, Ariz. Meeks had two enormous plays in those last 20 seconds -- one a block of Gonzaga star Nigel Williams-Goss and one an acrobatic steal that sent the UNC bench into a state of pandemonium.
UNC won the game, 71-65, by scoring the last eight points. It was the Tar Heels’ sixth NCAA tournament championship and avenged their second-place finish of 2016 (which is why the headline on the SI cover reads “Redeem Team.”)
Meeks told me afterward in the Tar Heels’ joyous locker room that he was too stunned by the evening’s events to show much outward emotion.
“As far as crying, no,” Meeks said, “but I’m sure I will. I’m still in shock. I’m so blessed that my family got to witness this. And to be a national champion in my final game -- what a milestone in my life.”
As for the Sports Illustrated cover, that will stick with Meeks forever as a reminder of this week. I know several people who were on covers 20-30 years ago, and fans still find those players with those exact magazines and want them to autograph them.