Former Pitt power forward DeJuan Blair is a beloved figure in Pittsburgh for a variety of reasons, one of which is his legendary toughness. On Thursday night, listeners tuning into The Jeff Capel Show on 93.7 The Fan were reminded of Blair’s on-court intensity, as he reminisced about the game on Feb. 16, 2009, during which he slammed 7'3" UConn center Hasheem Thabeet to the floor by throwing him over his shoulder.
”I love watching the highlights because I really don’t remember nothing about the game," Blair said. "I got hit in my eye, and I got a concussion — then I came back in the game. ... Stanley Robinson came down with his elbow, and it came straight in my face. And it was messed up, but I was like, ‘I’m gonna play, and I’m gonna finish the game.’”
Pitt coach Jeff Capel then cut in to ask Blair about the iconic body slam.
”Was it intentional when you flipped him?”
”Yeah,” Blair said after a pause. “I knew either I’m gonna take his arm, or I’m gonna take his body. But he’s not gonna get the ball, though.”
Pitt would go on to defeat then-No. 1 UConn 76-68 at the XL Center in Hartford, and Blair would put on a performance for the ages, with 22 points and a career-high 23 rebounds. His play, which some refer to today as "The Flip," set the tone for that matchup and came to symbolize Pitt's role as a giant-killer that day and during the Jamie Dixon era.
However, Thabeet apparently harbored hard feelings about the flip after the fact, as Blair saw him more than a year later and the ex-UConn star was not ready to bury the hatchet.
”A year after I went to the league, we were both at the NBA combine, and we were walking out of the restroom," Blair said. "He’s walking down the street. He crosses the street, and he goes on the whole other side. ... So after that, I haven’t really ran into him.”
Blair played at Pitt under Dixon from 2007 to 2009 and became one of the most decorated frontcourt players in program history. The Pittsburgh native was a unanimous Freshman All-America selection and the Big East Rookie of the Year in 2008 as well as a Big East Co-Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-American in 2009.
The former basketball star recently returned to Pitt to complete a degree in business entrepreneurship after a 10-year playing career during which he had stints in the NBA as well as professional leagues in Argentina, China and Russia. Blair was also a member of Overseas Elite in 2017 and helped the team secure a championship and a $2 million payout in The Basketball Tournament.