In 2005 the Chicago Tribune called it the greatest sports story of the past 50 years. In a town that saw both Mike Ditka’s Super Bowl Shuffle and Michael’s Jordan’s incredible domination of the NBA that’s saying a lot.
Overcoming adversity. Triumph in the face of insurmountable odds. Doing things not the easy way, but the right way. Standing up for what you believe in. Defending the inalienable rights of your fellow man.
This is the archetypical American story. And it’s the story of the 1963 Loyola Ramblers basketball team.
The Ramblers are the only team in Illinois history to ever capture the collegiate crown. March 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of their victory in the NCAA tournament. Back then, however, a different sort of madness was afoot: the racial upheaval, philosophical clashes, and burgeoning violence of the Civil Rights Movement.
In the middle of the maelstrom stood tiny Loyola University. With a team and starting line-up comprised predominantly of black players, the Ramblers’ “Iron Five” was – as befitting their moniker – a lightning rod. But neither the pressure of close games, nor the prejudice of close courtside crowds, would impede their wildly improbable run to the top.
Black and white coalesced. Foes became brothers. Champions championed a cause. And a group of college kids inspired a generation – and changed college sports forever.
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