IOWA CITY, Iowa — Jordan Bohannon walked to the free-throw line and nervously looked to his right for a signal of guidance.
Twelve rows up near the Iowa baseline sat Bohannon’s parents and three older brothers, all of whom played Division I basketball. Bohannon knew this moment was coming and had plenty of conversations with his brothers about it.
Early in the game, a 77-70 Iowa victory against Northwestern on Sunday, Bohannon had tied Chris Street for Iowa’s consecutive free-throw record. At Iowa, Street’s legacy is matched by that of only Nile Kinnick. Street died tragically in a car accident on Jan. 19, 1993, as an Iowa junior. The school retired his No. 40 jersey and the Chris Street Award is the most hallowed athletic accomplishment at the university. It’s given each spring to the player who best exemplifies the spirit, enthusiasm and intensity of Street.
Three days before he died, Street sank his 34th consecutive free throw. He never shot another one. For 25 years, Iowa players have approached it but always came up short. Bohannon now had his chance to eclipse it.
Bohannon looked to his family for a sign, stepped to the free-throw line and remembered a conversation with one of his older brothers, Zach. No matter what, Chris Street’s free-throw record stays intact.
“That’s one that continues to live on,” Zach Bohannon said. “I don’t care what happens and where or if the game’s on the line. That’s one of the things that he stressed about. ‘What if the game’s tied or we’re down by one?’ ‘I don’t [care]. You miss it.’ “
“I was staring at my brother and my family, and they knew what I was going to do,” Jordan Bohannon said. “I just kept it the same plan like I always had.”
At that point, Iowa led Northwestern by only 8 points with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left in the game. The timing was difficult. The Wildcats had sliced a 22-point Iowa lead to 8 points and drilled 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions.
But the score didn’t seem to matter at that moment. Not to Jordan Bohannon. Not to his teammates or his family. Not to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
Some records are too important to break.
“I thought about discussing it with him, but I left it up to him,” McCaffery said. “That’s what he chose to do. I think it’s awesome.”
In the weeks before this moment, Bohannon stressed repeatedly about the hypotheticals. He discussed them with his teammates. What if the game is close? What if Iowa trailed by 1 point? What if it was at the end of the game?
That’s when he let go of his worries and let his faith take over. Iowa wasn’t going to lose this game on his missed free-throw attempt.
“I trusted God’s plan and I knew obviously that Chris is looking down on us and he wasn’t going to let that happen, either,” Jordan Bohannon said.
Bohannon dribbled and took his shot. It was short. It was only his second missed free-throw attempt in Big Ten play. The ball bounced off the front of the rim and a gasp filled Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
On Northwestern’s next possession, Iowa forward Nicholas Baer picked up a steal. The teams traded baskets. Bohannon was fouled again with 50.5 seconds left.
Before stepping to the free-throw line this time, Bohannon pointed to the sky. He sank his first one, though it did circle around the rim. He also hit his second.
It was emotional for the Bohannons, the Street family, the McCafferys and even Northwestern coach Chris Collins, who took a visit to Iowa in the early 1990s and became friends with Street.
At the game’s end, Bohannon embraced Street’s parents, Mike and Patty, with whom he’d grown close. They both regularly have said they wanted Bohannon to break the record, but the sophomore had no interest in doing so.
“It wasn’t my record to have,” Bohannon said. “Life is obviously bigger than basketball.
“It deserves to stay in Chris’ name.”
In a season of overall disappointment, Iowa (13-18, 4-14 Big Ten) left Carver-Hawkeye Arena with its pride intact. Sure, records are important but interpreting that history matters more. No matter how many records he owns by the end of his Iowa career, the one Bohannon didn’t break means the most.
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