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1966 Texas Western Champ Roots For Grandson In NCAA Final Four

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

OK, it may be April 1, but March Madness is still not quite over for college basketball. Tomorrow, the Final Four teams play on the men's side.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Fifty years ago, there was a little hoopla around the tournament. In 1966, you couldn't even watch the championship live in some cities. But those who did tune in got to see a little bit of basketball and civil rights history.

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UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: We're ready to go. Stand by. The game is underway.

SHAPIRO: Until the season, no college basketball team had ever started five black players, then came Texas Western.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: The Texas Western takes over.

CORNISH: When the season began, nobody expected much of a small school from El Paso. But 27 wins and just one loss later, here they were, playing in the sport's biggest game against its biggest juggernaut, the Kentucky Wildcats.

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UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: Wildcats getting ready to move now.

CORNISH: At the time, Kentucky was an all-white team and always had been.

SHAPIRO: Before the game began, Texas Western coach Don Haskins gave his team a pep talk. And he told his players the Kentucky coach had said, I'll never let five black boys beat me.

CORNISH: Here's Texas Western starting center Dave Lattin remembering that pregame conversation in an event held at the university.

DAVE LATTIN: We were stunned.

CORNISH: Lattin was skeptical. He asked his teammate, Bobby Joe Hill, do you really think the Kentucky coach said that?

D. LATTIN: And Bobby looked at me and said, you know, we're not going to lose this game. So if that put gasoline on the fire, then coach did a great job.

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UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: Oh, and it goes past on Texas Western.

SHAPIRO: In the first basket of the game, Lattin dunked the ball. Texas Western won easily, 72-65.

CORNISH: Now, Dave Lattin's grandson, Khadeem Lattin, is actually playing in the Final Four for Oklahoma. Khadeem talked the AP about his grandfather. He says it's important to remember that even though the starting five were all black, the team was racially integrated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KHADEEM LATTIN: So biracial brotherhood, togetherness, the fact that they were all, like, a unit and they knew what they were getting into and they still wanted to fight with each other. And that's just a beautiful thing.

SHAPIRO: Fifty years after Texas Western's historic win, Dave Lattin will be back in the arena to watch his grandson play. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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