There may have been a basketball game last night at McKale Center, but for the first time in a long while, the UA men's basketball team was not the main event.
Mike Bibby, who spent two seasons at the UA and led the Wildcats to the national championship in 1997, was in attendance to have his No. 10 jersey retired, joining former UA greats Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott as the only Wildcats to earn such an honor.
"Winner," "team player" and "all-around good guy" were just some of the terms thrown around by Arizona players, coaches and UA administrators about Bibby last night.
"I'm proud of Mike not just as an athlete; I'm proud of what kind of young man he is," UA head coach Lute Olson said. "You can see that he's still the same type of young man that he was when he was here."
After the Wildcats defeated Sonoma State 105-80, Bibby came onto the court with members of his family, including his mother Virginia, his girlfriend Darcy and his young son Michael, to see his famous No. 10 hung from the south wall of McKale Center.
"Mike had a mother who couldn't be a greater person for raising a young man as she did," Olson said.
Bibby posed for pictures and watched a three-minute highlight tape while standing alongside Olson. When the video was done, Olson took the microphone and praised Bibby for representing the UA.
"I don't believe there can be a more unselfish player than Mike Bibby," Olson said. "We're so proud of what you did here, and we continue to be proud of seeing you represent this great university with the Sacramento Kings."
Bibby averaged 15.4 points per game and 5.5 assists per game as a Wildcat and was known for his work ethic, leadership qualities, and a dead-on jump shot that Olson alluded to in his speech.
"Mike didn't miss a shot in two years," Olson joked after the watching the tape.
When Olson was done, he handed the speaking duties to Bibby, who received a large ovation from the fans, most of whom stayed in their seats for the post-game ceremony.
"I'm not good at these kind of things, but I thank you for the support," Bibby said. "I thank coach Olson, coach Rosborough and coach Pastner. I appreciate all the support."
After the ceremony, Bibby met briefly with the Wildcat players on the court, and took a picture with the Sonoma State team. The current Wildcats were as impressed with Bibby in person as they were with memories of watching him play.
"It's motivation," said Mustafa Shakur of his talk with Mike Bibby. "I still look at the old 1997 and 1998 tapes of him playing."
"He's quiet and he's reserved, kind of like myself," added junior guard Chris Rodgers. "It was wonderful to have him here, and it was an honor just to get a chance to meet him."
Bibby's popularity has even spread internationally.
"I loved to watch him play," said forward Ivan Radenovic, who came to the UA last December from Serbia. "I just wanted to meet him. He's a great player."
Bibby was impressed with the current Wildcat team as well, comparing it to the 1997 championship team.
"They were kind of like we were," Bibby said. "They look like they play good together, not worrying about who's scoring. The main thing to worry about is winning. That's exactly how we were."
Bibby was the 1997 national freshman of the year and a 1998 All-American. He said he takes a part of the school wherever he plays.
"It's always going to be there, Bibby said.