Deep in the annals of the Library of Congress, there sits a volume containing the most sacred piece of legislation this country has ever seen. You know the one. It’s the one with the worn cover, and contains a page that is crinkled from being flipped to by many a college basketball fan.
You pull it off the shelf, blow off the dust, and indulge in the scent of aged parchment. It smells like March. You open the text, careful not to damage the already fragile binding. You turn to the page, and scan halfway down to see the code that changed the rules of March forever. It reads:
The Law of Gus
Any college basketball game featuring two teams regardless of quality, size, history, or any other qualitative metric shall result in a close game when broadcast by the King of March: Gus Johnson.
It’s a law unlike any other. Gus Johnson has become synonymous with college basketball’s biggest moments. His penchant for elevating the big moment with an unmatched enthusiasm has resulted in some of the most exciting games in college basketball, and for that we thank him.
Before we get into the rankings of Gus’s best calls, let’s make one thing clear: It is a damn TRAVESTY that Gus doesn’t get to call March Madness games anymore. CBS released him in 2011 after a contract dispute, and life hasn’t been the same since. We need Gus. March needs Gus.
Let’s get to the rankings.
10. Isaiah Thomas wins the Pac-12 title
Starting the list off with a game that wasn’t part of the tournament feels wrong, but this call is too good to leave out. Johnson perfectly narrates the final 20 seconds of the game right down the final “Cold. Blooded” line during the celebration.
9. Alex Marcotullio game-tying three vs Ohio State
One of the best things about Gus is the emphasis he puts on different parts of a word or name. In this one, he delivers a “MarcoTULLIO” that enriches the excitement of the shot falling in. Clutch threes will always be a Gus Johnson staple.
8. Steph Curry torches Wisconsin
Before Curry became a global phenomenon in the NBA, he stole the hearts of college basketball fans everywhere. His performance against Wisconsin, accompanied by plethora of “and hits”, “Ha Haaaaa”, and “We have a star!” from Johnson is the perfect recipe for March stardom.
7. Matt Sylvester stuns No. 1 Illinois
It should be an unwritten rule that every upset of the No. 1 team should have Gus Johnson on the call. This call of Matt Sylvester’s game-winner to stun Illinois in 2005 perfectly encapsulates the Gus Johnson experience.
6. Morrison’s game-winner vs Oklahoma State
Let’s do a quick power rankings of this video within the power rankings:
3. Gus’s trademark “Fire!” phrase leading into just screaming when he makes it.
2. Bill Raftery, who lost his mind just as much, yelling out “Onions!” in the chaos.
1. Gus comparing Adam Morrison to Larry Bird, then following it up with “maybe”.
5. Ron Lewis forces overtime
There’s two major components to this one. First, the amount of words that Johnson is able to say between the shot going in and his indecipherable response is incredible. Second, his sendoff leading into overtime, particularly his “Ha Haaaaaaa” just sets the tone for an overtime game during March.
4. “Heartbreak City”
Gonzaga fans, you might want to just scroll past this one. “Heartbreak City” will always be remembered as the one of the most gut-wrenching collapses in tournament history, and provides a lot of ammunition for the “lol gonzaga always chokes” crowd. It also provided the classic “Morrison crying” face, and gave our own Cam Newton the inspiration for one of the best Twitter avatars around.
3. Kansas State vs Xavier, Sweet 16 2010
This one is my personal favorite because it isn’t just one call. You can feel the moment building, and Gus’s excitement builds with each ensuing play. When Jordan Crawford hits that deep three at the end of the first overtime, Gus just absolutely loses his damn mind. It’s amazing that his soul didn’t just leave his body and ascend into the skies after that shot went down.
2. “Parking Lot”
T.J. Sorrentine will always have a special place in our hearts for this one. One of Gus’s best qualities has always been delivering one-liners off the cuff, and “hit that one from the parking lot” is among his best.
1. “The Slipper Still Fits”
The Runner. The OG Gus Moment. There was never any doubt that this would be the best Gus call of all time. “The Slipper Still Fits” was truly the moment that elevated Gonzaga into the national spotlight, and they haven’t looked back since. This is, always has been, and always will be the best Gus Johnson moment ever.