Chris Street would have been 40 years old in less than two weeks. That’s hard to believe. The number 40 is not forgotten in Iowa. Thursday, 19 years after Street’s death, Hawkeye fans remembered where they were when the got the shocking news Street was dead. Many people shared that they broke down and cried. Others were young and remember seeing their mom or dad in tears. More than a few said their parents woke them up to give the sad news. It just didn’t seem possible that someone as big and strong and full of life as Chris Street could be gone. And right in the middle of the season.
For me, time stood still. I think I just froze. I snapped out of it, and led the newscast with news no one wanted. This was before twitter, facebook, and texts, so I knew the gravity of the moment, and through the studio doors, I heard every phone in the newsroom begin ringing immediately. They wouldn’t stop all night.
Iowa’s game the next night with Northwestern would be postponed. No one would ever forget Iowa’s emotional comeback win at Michigan State. Or the home win versus a good Michigan team. Street’s mom and dad were courtside, and when they were handed the game ball, you couldn’t find a dry eye in the place.
Street’s death resonated well beyond Hawkeye fans. It’s difficult to understand if you had never seen him play, or never watched him interact with kids, but it was not surprising when Iowa State announced a Cyclone from Iowa would wear the #40. The first to do it: Fred Hoiberg. A Cyclone hasn’t worn 40 for a few years, but it would be nice for Coach Hoiberg to restart the honor.
Street lives on in other ways. Through basketball tournaments, gymnasiums, and awards that carry his name. It’s the stories about the kind of player he was, more importantly the kind of person he was, that really keep his legacy alive.
For an article that shows the mood in 1993 far better than I have, click here:
(Thank you to Justin VanLaere for the link.)