Ed. note: Dylan initially wrote this on March 5, but we’re giving it a bump today in light of Wisconsin’s Sweet 16 loss to Florida.
Dear Bronson, Nigel, Vitto and Zak,
While everyone worries about (five of) the last six games, Big Ten standings, NCAA tournament seeds and the overall madness of March, I wanted to reach out on behalf of Badgers fans everywhere and offer two words: thank you.
Thank you for four trips to the NCAA tournament and (at least) two trips to the Final Four. In the middle of it all, you handled a coaching change and the loss of some amazing talent around you. However, we’ll all remember you for being more than just those numbers and accomplishments on the court.
Bronson—thank you, first of all, for staying home and living up to the hype. You came on campus as a highly-touted recruit who could have played for some of the giants of college basketball. Instead, you moved down the road to Madison and helped make Wisconsin one of those giants. Secondly and more importantly, thank you for standing for something more than basketball. The way in which you’ve used your platform has been incredible, inspiring and admirable. Lastly, thank you for this moment, and your general ice-cold-bloodedness:
Thank you for making me jump out of bed in disbelief. It still gives me chills and this Matt Lepay call still gets to me.
Nigel—this is going to sound repetitive, but I’ll gladly repeat: thank you for realizing that you’re so much more than a basketball player. It takes an insane amount of courage to say what you feel and stand for it when others disagree. Not many people learn that in their early twenties, much less put it into practice.
Thank you for the vocabulary lessons and helping us all feel better about having that moment. Oh, and thanks again for beating the shot clock against Kentucky. That play goes unnoticed when people talk about the biggest wins in Wisconsin basketball history.
Vitto—thank you for lending your voice more than once, and for putting up with everyone asking to hear it. Thank you for transcending that talent with your basketball talent. #PeopleForgetThat you didn’t attempt a single three-point shot in your first two years as a Badger, but shot 40 percent as a junior. Thanks for the tireless work that got you from six minutes per game as a sophomore to a starter as a senior.
Zak—thank you for your grit, guts and floor burns. Thank you for not being satisfied with just wearing the red jersey and working to being a former walk-on from Germantown. Wisconsin basketball comes in many forms, but if there was a breathing encyclopedic example, you and Josh Gasser would be standing hand-in-hand as just that. We also appreciate the frequent and random reminders that you are a freak athlete in a 6’3, 195-pound package:
Maybe I missed a few moments (there were a ton) and maybe that got a little bit sappy, but I think Wisconsin fans everywhere would echo the sentiment. Thank you all for your four years of work, fun and entertainment. Just one last favor before you go? Beat Minnesota tonight, please?
Dylan Deich and the rest of Badger nation