Austin Rivers.

Mention that name to any Duke basketball fan, and immediately they’ll tell you he is a guard for their beloved team.

Mention that name to a Celtics fan, and they’ll be quick to tell you he is the son of NBA coach Doc Rivers.

Utter even a syllable of his name to a UNC Chapel Hill basketball fan, and they’ll probably tell you he is the sole reason all of their hopes and dreams were crushed as they watched Duke beat their team in one of the most heated games of their season.

The rivalry between UNC Chapel Hill and Duke basketball is unlike any other. To put it in perspective, in 2000, ESPN ranked their rivalry as the “third greatest North American sports rivalry” and Sports Illustrated named it the number one “hottest rivalry” in college basketball. This year, the rivalry raged on and Tarheels fans had their hearts set on a win over the Blue Devils – and rightfully so. With only four seconds remaining in the game, UNC was ahead by two points and their fans could taste sweet victory on their lips.


Quickly, the savory flavor of triumph dissipated, and UNC fans were left feeling shattered. The buzzer sounded and the swoosh of Austin Rivers’ three-point shot lingered in the air. In a single second, the battle had been won and Rivers became more than just a freshman player on the Duke University basketball team – he became an instant legend.

The minute I realized that a freshman player had won the game for his team in the absolute final second of play, I could not help but think of the public relations dream this moment was for him, the school and his future as a professional athlete. Not only are freshman not expected to be the leading scorers or key players in a game, they are also not supposed to score the final buzzer shot that is responsible for a win in the largest rivalry game college basketball has ever seen. That same night, Rivers added another impressive credential to his list of accomplishments, as Duke was responsible for halting UNC’s “school record 31-game home winning streak.”

It would be hard to put into words just how much press coverage and media attention this kid received that night, continues to receive today, and will continue to receive in the future. First, you have multiple angles to this story that makes it unique and easily marketable: Rivers is a freshman; Rivers’ father is the head coach of the Boston Celtics; Rivers shot the winning point in the last second – literally; Rivers shot a three-pointer; Rivers scored the winning points in the most talked about rivalry game; and Rivers made the basket over a seven-foot defender. No matter which way you look at, there is a story that can be a told and there is a media outlet that will be interested in it. While the event might spark a family magazine to focus on the basketball ties between father and son and the legend the two are living, it could simultaneously provoke a sports outlet to zero in on the technique Rivers used in his last play to defeat a seven-foot defender and sink a three-pointer.

While Rivers’ story may be dissected from a different angle every single time, the message will be the remain the same: Rivers is a legend.

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