SAN ANTONIO – The greatest shot in the history of Kansas basketball can be traced to, of all places, Alaska.
Mario Chalmers used to hide behind the couch until his mother, Almarie, sang the national anthem. Then he'd waddle around the corner and onto the "court" he'd constructed on the living room floor of his family's Anchorage home.
"Three … two … one," Almarie would count as four-year-old Mario heaved shot after shot at the miniature Nerf rim. "Three … two … one."
Chalmers' father, Ronnie, chuckles as he tells the story.
"He won a lot of national championships in that living room," Ronnie said.
Perhaps that's why Chalmers felt so at ease at the Alamodome on Monday. Seventeen years after those impromptu games in his den, Chalmers again found himself with the ball in his hands and the clock winding down. Only this time there were 43,257 fans watching – and the national championship really was on the line.
With one swift flick of the wrist, Chalmers helped Kansas accomplish what only two other teams in its storied history have achieved. His heavily guarded three-pointer with two seconds remaining against Memphis forced overtime – where the Jayhawks escaped with a 75-68 victory and their first national championship since 1988.
Chalmers' heroic shot was the cherry on top of a ferocious Kansas rally that saw the Jayhawks come back from a 60-51 deficit with 2:12 left in regulation.
"It's a great feeling," Chalmers said. "I'll get older and look back on this day, and I'll always be able to watch that last shot. It's something I'll never forget."
Neither will Kansas coach Bill Self, who needed just five years to attain at Kansas what predecessor Roy Williams couldn't in 15: a championship trophy. Self hoisted it high as he and the Jayhawks stood atop a platform at center court Monday.
Danny Manning, Clyde Lovellette, Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Drew Gooden. As many successful players and seasons as the program has had, never has a Kansas squad won as many games as Self's 37-3 Jayhawks.
"I told them tonight that they'll be remembered as the best team ever in the history of the program," Self said. "That, to me, it's very humbling to know that, of all the great players and teams, this one will go down as the best ever."
Indeed, as hard as he may try, Self may never be able to assemble a squad with the same mix of talent and experience as the 2007-08 Jayhawks.
Three of Kansas' top seven players were McDonald's All-Americans, and six of them likely will be selected in the NBA draft either this season or next.
Included on that list is Chalmers, whose stock surely rose after being selected as the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. Along with his game-altering three-pointer, Chalmers made four steals Monday while dishing out three assists.
One of them came early in the overtime period, when Chalmers elevated for what appeared to be an open jumper from the free-throw line. But at the last second Chalmers lobbed a pass to Darrell Arthur, who finished the play with a dunk that gave Kansas a 67-63 lead and a momentum it never would relinquish.
"Before he was ever formed in his mother's womb, God had a plan for Mario's life," Almarie Chalmers said. "He's lived his whole life for a moment like this."
As if he hadn't already done enough, Chalmers wrapped a bow around Kansas' victory by swishing a pair of free throws that extended Kansas' cushion to 75-68 with 45.1 seconds left.
Chalmers made all six of his foul shots Monday.
"We call him Mr. Clutch," teammate Brandon Rush said.
Years from now, perhaps at a reunion or in the streets of Lawrence, Kan., fans still may be using that name when they refer to Chalmers. To many it seemed so fitting that one of the most memorable national title games in history ended in such dramatic fashion.
But to Chalmers, it was something he'd come to expect.
As confetti danced through the air around them, Chalmers embraced his father – a Kansas assistant – on the Alamodome Court.
"I told you something like this would happen someday," Chalmers said as he hugged Ronnie. "I told you."