Madison Square Garden: The venue known as "the World's Most Famous Arena".
Its basketball history and legacy as one of the premier venues for entertainment in the world is unparalleled. Anyone who has had the fortune of gracing the hallowed hardwood that is laid out on game day will tell you how magical the place really is. On Thursday night, in Duke's first ever matchup against the 12th ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders, Aussie Jack White and his No. 2-ranked Blue Devils added to that history.
Although the game marked the MSG debut for a number of Duke players, including 6-foot-7 phenom Zion Williamson, it was White's fourth trip to the New York City floor as a member of the Blue Devils. He was a DNP in their first two games (against Kansas and Florida respectively), and then played only eight minutes in their shock loss to St Johns in February earlier this year.
But Thursday's game was a chance for White to notch the first MSG win of his career, and he did exactly that as the Blue Devils defeated the Red Raiders 69-58.
Duke have a long history at MSG. They have played at least one game at MSG in 16 of their last 17 seasons. After Thursday's win against the Red Raiders, their all-time record at the Garden is 35-18.
White, who was named a captain for the 2018-19 season alongside classmate and roommate Javin DaLaurier, was a crucial part of the win, playing a career high 32 minutes (good for third on the team) and delivering some massive plays down the stretch. In fact, in the last twelve minutes of the game, White hit two corner three-pointers, grabbed three defensive boards, swatted two blocks, hit two clutch free throws and registered an assist and a steal to top it off.
But even when he's not getting it done statistically he's still a vital part of the team, constantly shouting out directions to players throughout the game. It's clear why he is one of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's favourite players. Fortunately for White, he was also able to do all of this in front of his family, who travelled from Australia to watch.
Despite the game being at a neutral venue, the raucous sell-out crowd could have tricked you into thinking that this was an in-state rivalry game. Both supporter bases came out in force; half the Garden was draped in red and the other in blue. You might have even been forgiven for thinking that the Duke faithful were outdone by the rowdy Raiders army, whose piercing "RAIDERS! POWER!" chant echoed loudly throughout. It was one of those rare games where the crowd resembled an Aussie Rules game more than a college game.
"It was great for both sides," White told ESPN.
"I mean, you look up in the crowd, one side you see a lot of red for Texas Tech. (That's) great for them to have so much support coming out from Texas or around the country and seeing them live, and then obviously for us we had that Duke blue in the crowd. Whichever way the game was falling, you'd hear their crowd or you'd hear our crowd. So it was back and forth, especially up until the last five or 10 minutes when we got that little bit of a lead."
White is no stranger to a big atmosphere, however. At Duke, he has the opportunity to play in front of sell-out crowds every week, and he gets to do it in what is arguably the most spectacular college basketball stadium in the nation.
"I mean, it's amazing. To be able to have that opportunity to compete (at MSG), let alone just be here, it's a huge honour," White said. "It's a lot of fun. We have great fans coming out here in New York and showing support. It just kind of feels like our home away from home at this point."
White says it's the "the history" that makes MSG so special
He's right. Almost as soon as you step into that arena, you can feel its significance; you can feel the aura of the countless memorable performances that have taken place since its opening in 1968.
From Bernard King's 60 points on Christmas Day in 1984 to Kobe Bryant's 61 in 2009 and Carmelo Anthony's 62 in 2014, the Garden has an almost never-ending collection of stories to tell.
From a collegiate perspective, the MSG debuts of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis as college players stand out, not just because of their individual brilliance, but rather the fact that simply debuting on that court is a milestone itself.
Asked to compare MSG and Duke's home court, White said: "Geez, that's a tough question. Damn, I don't know. I can't split the hair between the two."
That says a lot about how special Cameron Indoor is. Despite the fact that it has less than half the capacity of MSG, as well a very small percentage of the private suites and a much smaller scoreboard, Cameron Indoor still feels just as grandiose -- at least to White -- as the Garden.
On Thursday night, there was one player many of the crowd had come to see: Zion Williamson. The uber-athletic nightly highlight reel was eager to impress, and it didn't take him long to show the crowd why he is one of the most popular college athletes that we've ever seen.
Three minutes and 25 seconds into the game, Williamson flew through the air for one of his patented dunks. It was a play that even the Texas Tech fans would sheepishly admit they wanted to see, and a sample of what MSG patrons may be watching well into the future.
Williamson is tipped by many pundits to go first overall in this year's draft, a pick that could conceivably go to the New York Knicks. Of the 75 former Duke players who have gone on to play in the NBA, seven of them have done so as a Knick. Williamson could very well be the eighth.
"(Zion) definitely suits MSG," White told ESPN.
"He's going to have a great career. He's such a genuine guy. A lot of people see the highlights and dunks and everything on the court but off the court, he's a funny guy. He's hilarious.
"For a kid who's 18 years old with the amount of attention he gets and everything like that, I don't think he could have handled it any better."
From the small town of Traralgon in Australia, to Durham in North Carolina, White has never really experienced life in a big city. But that hasn't stopped him from performing in front of hoards of basketball fanatics in what is arguably the best college basketball stadium and the best pro basketball stadium in the world.
If anything, he feels right at home.