In a new 30 For 30 Short from ESPN Films released Tuesday, director Marc Kinderman examines the last consolation game played at the NCAA Final Four in 1981 — just hours after an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in the nation’s capital.
LSU, which lost in the national semifinals, played Virginia in Philadelphia and Tigers’ All-American Durand “Rudy” Macklin was the subject of a backlash when asked after a 78-74 loss if his game was affected by the attempt on Reagan’s life.
“No Kin to Me” looks at how Macklin, one of only four LSU men’s basketball players to have their jersey retired, carried the Tigers to their first Final Four in 28 years only to have it end with back-to-back losses — in part because of an injured pinky-finger on Macklin’s shooting hand.
Many questioned why the game was played at all, much less after President Reagan was shot. Macklin was among them, but he didn’t want to play because he still was reeling from his team’s semifinals loss to Indiana 48 hours earlier.
“I couldn’t get over what happened that Saturday night … couldn’t get over it,” he says in the film. “As much as I loved the game, (the consolation game) just didn’t seem necessary.”
Macklin, who remains the program’s all-time leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, was asked by a journalist if the events a few hours earlier had affected him. He didn’t score and fouled out of the game.
Macklin responded by saying, “If he was kin to me, I could understand.”
When pressed further, Macklin said, “He’s not kin to me, OK?” He said that led to headlines and calls and vulgar letters sent to his dorm room in Baton Rouge and his family’s home in Louisville, Kentucky.
Kinderman said redemption is a major theme in the film, which concludes with Macklin having his jersey retired to the rafters of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in a ceremony during the 2009-10 season.
“Communication is another theme to look at,” Kinderman said. “This is something that might have been taken care of in a couple of hours in social media today. … He might have apologized or clarified (what he said) on SportsCenter and the whole thing would have been over the next day.
“I don’t think anyone knows how hot-button an issue it was at the time and the fact that Rudy was able to tell the story with such emotion in a way he hadn’t for anyone before was big in this show.”