KNOXVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Thousands packed Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville Thursday night to honor a legend.
They attended a Celebration of Life ceremony in memory of University of Tennessee’s Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt.
Not far from the area, The Rock was painted in tribute of the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.
Pat Summitt died last month at the age of 64.
Summitt stepped down from coaching four years ago and was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
In a ceremony televised nationwide Thursday night, those who knew her celebrated Summitt’s amazing life.
In the arena where she led so many to cheers of victory, on this night, Summitt was why so many were led to pay tribute.
ABC broadcaster and friend of Pat Summitt, Robin Roberts, led the ceremony in Thompson-Boling Arena.
“Like many of you here, I have had the incredible good fortune of Pat being a dear friend, a kindred soul and spirit,” Roberts said.
Her funeral had been private, but this was for everyone — her fans, many dressed in UT orange.
“Even as Pat’s memory continued to fade, if Pat saw one of my games or commercials on TV, she pointed at the screen and said ‘that’s my friend. He comes to visit me. There goes my friend,'” former UT quarterback Peyton Manning said.
Politicians came to watch it happen.
People who, like Pat, bled UT orange.
Her players were like her family. They came by the dozens.
“She gave us hope. She gave us direction,” Tamika Catchings said. “She gave us a sense of coolness for what we did on and off the court.”
And among Summitt’s friends and fans, the family who held her hand at the end.
“I heard three words every single day of my life,” Tyler Summitt said. “‘I love you’. Every day. It didn’t matter how busy she was, what she had to do, she took the time to stop and tell me that.”
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