IOWA CITY, Iowa - Kris and Keegan Murray were in elementary school when their dad, Kenyon, called them downstairs one day to watch an Iowa basketball game with him. Kenyon pulled out a VHS tape and popped it into the machine. It was one of 124 games Kenyon played in for the Hawkeyes between 1992 and 1996.
But it was not just another game. It was one of the greatest, emotional games in Iowa basketball history.
It was the Hawkeyes’ 96-90 overtime victory over Michigan State on Jan. 28, 1993, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich. The Murray twins will be there in uniform for the first time Saturday when Iowa squares off with the Spartans.
It was Iowa’s first game since the tragic death of junior forward Chris Street nine days earlier in a collision between his car and a Johnson County snowplow. The Hawkeyes rallied from a 15-point deficit with 3 minutes 15 seconds remaining to force overtime, then won. “I honestly, still to this day, don’t know how we won that game,” Kenyon said this week. “I know Chris had a hand in it.”
Kenyon was a freshman, like his sons are now, during that 1992-1993 season. It was Street who took Murray under his wing and helped the rookie along. They became fast friends. A youth basketball tournament is now played in Street’s honor each winter in his home town of Indianola. Kenyon coached a team, which included his sons, that played in the tournament several times. He thought that showing his sons that 1993 Michigan State game would give them some insight into the guy the tournament was named after.
“They were in the fifth or sixth grade,” Murray recalled. “I wanted them to understand how much playing in this tournament meant to me. They had an idea what impact Chris had on my life. I just wanted to show them how much we came together as a team during that Michigan State game, and just the emotional toll it took on us.”
Kenyon also wanted his sons to know more about the guy that Kris was named after. When Kenyon and his wife, Michelle, were dating, they’d occasionally discuss having children. “And I said, “The first boy’s name is Kris,’ ” Kenyon said.
He even called Patty Street, Chris’s mother, to get her permission.
“Then we had the twins,” Kenyon added. “It was like, “Whoever comes out first, he’s Kris.’ ” Some people don’t make the connection.
“A lot of people to this day will say, “I didn’t know he was named after Chris Street because they’re spelled different,’ ” Kenyon added.
It was around the time that the twins started playing in the Street tournament that Kris learned the meaning behind his name.
“We used to go to the Chris Street tournament yearly, and that’s when I met Mike and Patty Street,” Kris said. “My dad told me what it meant, and who Chris was. And ever since then I’ve tried to embody that and look up to him as a role model.”
Kris is well aware of the bond his father had with Chris Street.
“(Street) is someone who worked hard and was just a natural leader,” Kris said. “Chris took my dad under his wing when he was a freshman, and was a leader to my dad. He taught my dad a lot in the short time he had with him, and my dad has tried to pass that on to me.” Keegan recalls watching that 1993 Iowa-Michigan State game with his brother and dad. “We’ve talked about that game a lot,” Keegan said. “Obviously Chris Street is a big part of our family because my brother is named after him. The first time we watched that game he (Kenyon)
was emotional. Just because it was a packed house and they came back. It kind of hit home, having Kris there watching it with us.”
It didn’t take Keegan long to realize what the game meant, to both the program he plays for now as well as his dad.
‘“The game was huge, just the impact on the Iowa basketball organization as a whole and on the (state) of Iowa,” added Keegan. “Chris was one of my dad’s best friends. He took him under his wing when my dad first got to Iowa. That was just a big moment for him.” Kenyon remembers his emotions getting the best of him as the tape of that game started rolling. ‘“I remember getting emotional just because they were talking about Chris,” Kenyon said. “I wanted to show them (his sons) how impactful he was on me, and how that team came together.”
It is a game that Kenyon has watched by himself many times.
“It was such an emotional comeback,” he said. “Those last 31/2 minutes were crazy. You couldn’t have scripted it the way it came out. It was just unbelievable.”
There are moments in that game that remain locked in Kenyon’s memory. He thinks of the team, still down 13, when center Acie Earl said, “We’re not going to lose this game.” He remembers Coach Tom Davis nearly speechless in the huddle before the overtime started. “I don’t think Tom knew what to say,” Kenyon recalled. “Acie and Val Barnes were just talking. That’s all it was. They kept saying, “We’re not going to lose this game.’ I think coach said, “Yup, we’re not losing this game. Go out and play.’ ”
Play they did, giving the logic-defying comeback a happy ending 5 overtime minutes later. “You just can’t imagine the jubilation in that locker room,” Kenyon said. “Everyone remembers the Michigan game. That was our first home game (after Street’s passing). They don’t talk about the Michigan State game as much.”
Jubilation shared that winning locker room in East Lansing with a strong dose of heartache for a friend and teammate lost.
“It’s just so hard to really put into words,” Murray said.