Kenyon Martin was inducted into the UC Hall of Fame Monday. He not only defined an era, but in his induction defines the way Bearcats fans should treat it.
CINCINNATI -- What was the memory for you?
The turnaround jump shot?
The triple-double with 13 blocks against Memphis? Tossing the Bearcats on his back down 10 under four minutes against DePaul?
The absurd 3.5 blocks per game his senior season?
Was it the injury? Witnessing the evolution of a superstar?
Being named consensus National Player of the Year? Selection atop the NBA Draft?
Was it the style?
Was it the shimmy?
Depending on age, appreciation and seat location the specific memory from fan to fan differs dramatically.
For those die-hards who still line the front rows of Fifth Third Arena and refer to it as The Shoe, remembering particular portions of Kenyon Martin fade into a grander picture.
Kenyon Martin more than defined a team, a personality of Bearcats basketball. He defined the Bob Huggins Era. From Corie Blount to Danny Fortson, Bobby Brannen to Pete Mickeal, Steve Logan to Jason Maxiell, many players typified the attitude embodied over a span of 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
All follow in line behind Martin.
His rise from raw to revered over a four-year span illustrated the brilliance, effectiveness of hard work and Huggins philosophy. Martin fittingly for those clubs made his name on defense and did so better than any to wear red and black. Despite the anchor of Conference USA, Martin belonged second to none on the national landscape, exactly like the UC program in those days.
"For me to come from where I was my freshman year to being able to develop my game into becoming the No. 1 pick in the NBA is a great honor to the work Coach Huggins put into me and the time that he stayed on me academically and athletically," Martin said. "I didn't have a father figure so without him none of this would be possible."
His senior year tournament run tragically never came, but his place as the face of Huggins brand of Cincinnati basketball remains cemented for ever. His induction into the UC Hall of Fame Monday night assured as much.
A deeper reality follows his return to campus and physical re-connection with the university and basketball program, though.
Kenyon not only defined the Huggins Era, but now in his induction defines the way Bearcats fans should treat it.
Too often a line in the sand had been drawn between those days and today's Bearcats. Fans, coaches, boosters, administration needed to take sides and separate the two. Or just separate from it.
That's what Kenyon did. He picked sides and made disparaging remarks about the school in frustration of the dissolution of a brand he represented. That was then, this is now.
"Things (with the university) over the years have been a little rocky," Martin said at his induction. "I made some statements a few years ago that I couldn't take back, but at the time that's how I felt. But I'm still a Bearcat at heart. Thanks for this honor and this is not the last you will see of me."
Everyone made remarks they couldn't take back in the years since. All felt the need to take a stand in their direction of choice.
But here stands Kenyon Martin, back for the first time since 2000, in the middle of a circle of players wearing the C-Paw holding the same aspirations he once did as a lanky, unsure center from Dallas, Texas in 1997.
To deny the ascension of UC basketball under Mick Cronin - the man who helped bring Martin to Cincinnati - would mean living in a past nobody worries about anymore. Not Huggins, who proudly looked on at Martin's ceremony Monday. Not Martin, who admits he's always watching and will always be a Bearcat.
So should all UC fans who stood at Martin's Senior Day and picked up their jaws after every block Martin snatched out of the air like a rebound.
Perhaps asserting Martin's return and induction connects two eras and officially buries any old dissension could be considered overly philosophical and unnecessary. Maybe. The amped atmospheres at Fifth Third the last few years of conference play and success in the NCAA tournament insist as much. Probably.
But the man who stood as the symbol of all considered great about the Huggins Era should stand now as a symbol of all that is great about this one. And the need to embrace it.
Connecting tradition with a blossoming future like Martin did Monday sets an example. One that could allow a new set of signature moments for fans to choose from.
I want to hear from you! Send any comments, questions, suggestions or Kenyon memories to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.