In the elation of its upset win over No. 1 seed Young Game Changers — a team with four former NBA players on its roster — HBCUnited players gathered around a large bracket at Rucker Park to celebrate.
A poignant image was captured.
In a YouTube video later posted by ex-Maryland Eastern Shore forward Bakari Copeland, that image of the team huddled around The Basketball Tournament bracket — the smiles, the triumphant gesturing — included Thomas “Snacks” Lee holding the team’s placard that would be affixed in position to signify the team advancement into the next round.
“They say a picture can be worth a thousand words,” Copeland said in the video narration, “but this picture right here … I think I can make a million with this one.”
Lee, who didn’t play in HBCUnited’s 66-59 victory Sunday night, was once again right in the middle of yet another magical basketball moment.
Two years ago, right before the COVID-19 pandemic upended sports and the world, Lee, who then played for Jackson State, gained national publicity for draining a 35-foot 3-point shot on senior night.
The video of the shot went viral. Lee soon after made appearances on The Morning Show with Hoda and Jenna, ESPN’s College Gameday, Pardon The Interruption, The Dan Le Batard, and Around the Horn to tell the story of how the team’s student manager rose to viral internet sensation.
Lee even won an ESPY award in the 2020 Can’t-Stop-Watching-Moment category.
Lee, who coached AAU basketball in his native Mississippi prior to joining HBCUnited after reaching out to team officials, is grateful to be back competing once again.
“To be able to play post-graduation is special because you want to have these connections and be on this platform and continue to thrive,” Lee told HBCU Sports Tuesday in a phone interview. “That moment (the shot) has taught me to double down on myself and to believe in myself and have crazy aspirations and never get discouraged on what I want to do.”
And that goes for HBCUnited, too, which is just a few wins away from capturing the $1 million prize attached to taking home The Basketball Tournament championship.
“I think it will show why we represent HBCUs,” Lee said. “For us to be the last ones standing would bring more awareness and embrace our culture and our style and what we bring to HBCUs.”
HBCUnited will play No. 2 seed Americana for Autism at 8 p.m. EST Wednesday on ESPN.