One of the positives from a trip to Vegas that revolves mostly around sports betting is the arguments that you get into with your boys over the action. These conversations are usually soaked in alcohol and laced with profanity, however they are the reason I started this site. They usually take all kinds of directions and for the most part are based on sound judgment and logic. However, it is that last 10 percent of the argument that is based on personal feelings and beliefs. That shakes everything up. So we begin with chronicles our spirited debates (really only three that I remember with a decent recollection).
Who was a better “COLLEGE” player, Durant or Melo? This conversation has nothing, to do with what type of player they are now in the league, but which one did more in college. At the time of the argument, wireless internet was expensive and we were hammered so the numbers of there one season in college basketball were unknown. We assumed that Durant’s were slightly better.
Games: 35 Mins 35.9 SPG 1.9 BPG 1.9 RPG 11.1 APG 1.3 PPG 25.8
Games: 35 Mins 35.9 SPG 1.6 BPG 0.9 RPG 10.1 APG 2.3 PPG 22.8
While Durant’s number are marginally better, it can also be said that the BIG 12 is not nearly the basketball powerhouse that used to be the Big East. You could argue that Durant’s supporting cast was weaker, he had a few NBA players on the roster with him, but they were mostly all sophomores and freshman. However, looking at the ‘03 ‘Cuse team, they were not much better. In fact, they only had 9 scholarship players on the roster. Warrick was a break-out sophomore star, but Gerry McNamara and Billy Edelin were freshmen. Both teams had only one senior on the roster and two current NBA players. So to me it comes down to results. Durant’s Texas team lost in the round of 32 to USC and finished the season 25-10, including several double-digit losses. Melo on the other hand, went 30-5, won the National Championship and the MVP for the Final Four. He dropped 33 on Texas in the National Semi-finals, then followed that up with a double-double in the championship game. So to me, Melo was clearly a more successful college player. However, my colleague argued that Durant was better overall because of better numbers, having a weaker supporting class, and a joke of a head coach. Yet the fact remains that Melo was the leader and best player on a CHAMPIONSHIP winning team, which to me makes him a better college basketball player because being a great college basketball player is all about winning. Nobody remembers that Adam Morrison dropped 28 a game; they just remember him balling like a baby after they lost in the tourney. Melo cut down the nets, Durant lost before the sweet 16! (I know it is slightly unfair that my colleagues have no rebuttal, but being the Editor-in-Chief has its perks.)
The Melo/Durant discussion then evolved in something else all together. Melo and Durant were the first in the modern era of freshman superstars. Melo showed that with the right group of kids, one superstar could take an average team with talent and some other skilled guys and take them to the championship. Calipari has built his career on getting these types of players. It’s like catching lightning in a bottle – you have to have the right mix, perfect chemistry, and the right kind of superstar for it to work. However, these kids do not come around every day, which is what Kentucky learned this year. That leads to my next debate, which quickly became an agreed upon fact.
Kids are EXTREMELY over-hyped these days. With youtube, twitter, and ESPN, every recruiting class gets treated like a game changer. Nearly every class is proclaimed to have the next Durant and the next superstar. Which in fact is not only completely unfair, it’s downright stupid. It’s not the kid’s fault, it’s the media, they place this huge burden on an 18 year old kid’s shoulders and say hey, go out there and drop 20 a game while saving your school’s program. It’s a HUGE ask, and basketball is the worst. Every year we on some kid whose the next so-in-so, when in all actuality he’s a really good player, just beneath the hype. Basketball is the worst, because one player can greatly affect the entire game, so everybody wants to think that the next kid coming in is that guy. Sometimes they are, let’s go back (using ESPN rankings)…
2007 – Hyped since a sixth grader, OJ Mayo was suppose to be the next Lebron. How did that work out? Well, turns out he was so much better because he hit his growth spurt before everyone else. Still an average NBA and college player. Kevin Love was not quite a game changer in college, but still pretty damn good. Derrick Rose, ok game changer, should have been National Champion if he could hit free throws.
2008 – While 2007 had the talent, 2008 did not. Brandon Jennings opts to go overseas, while Samardo Samuels (another ESPN Next Hype Machine product) is still eating his way through Kentucky. Then there is the standout college quartet of B.J Mullens, JaMychal Green, Demar DeRozan, and Ed Davis…basically nothing.
2009 – The first of John Calipari’s UK classes, with Boobie Cousins and John Wall taking them all the way to the Final Four, the rest of the class were average college players, Avery Bradley got suspended, Derrick Favors decided Georgia Tech was a good idea, and Xavier Henry is in the D-league.
2010 – My favorite, the Black Falcon, Harrison Barnes. Was actually a decent college player, however he was nowhere near the hype that was bestowed upon him. The rest of the class propelled Kentucky to an Elite Eight finish and there is no telling what would have happened if Kyrie Irving had not broken his foot, because he could have had a huge impact, judging by the games he did play.
2011 – Anthony Davis was a next to this world athlete and he was a game changer, built with the left over pieces from the year before and the hustle and heart of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist they did the whole Melo thing.
2012 – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHA Shabazz…Noel…but still, they were hugely hyped. I never saw it in Shabazz, he just never made you say damn or was really explosive and to say that Noel had an any kind of offensive game is unfair.
So what does it tell you? Yes, there are a few kids out there that really can change a program, but they are not going to do it by themselves. Most of the time you’re getting a solid player who needs to grow and develop, sometimes you’re getting a Rose, Wall, or Anthony Davis. The hype train just needs to slow down. But it never will, because everyone is afraid they are going to miss out on being the first to say that this kid is good. There should be no reason why a freshman should be considered for an All-American spot, it’s just stupid. However there is a bit of a trend, up a year, down a year, up a year down two, wayyyyy down this year, so it has to be up this coming year right? While I am contradicting myself right now, it brings me to my next point, I DO believe in the hype about Andrew Wiggins.
This kid is ridiculous. He’s basically skipped a grade and STILL is the top player in the class. On top of that when you watch his highlight reels, you cannot help but say WHOA…it’s damn near incredible. The hops are off the chart and the way he plays is so effortless and smooth. On the latest one, what I notice more than anything is the handle and speed. He is fast. I am terrified, repeat terrified, that this kid is going to end up at UNC, because, one, I hate them, and two, we have to play him twice a year. He will light up college basketball. I just have a feeling. But I am usually wrong, although I did have a sneaking suspicion that Florida Gulf Coast would definitely cover against Georgetown… (Editors note: Still believe even after a disappointing showing in the Dunk Contest, he was a bit TOO ambitious, although the reverse 360 between the legs with the left hand was the dunk of the night, sorry tall dude that won, you just hit all your dunks the first time with power.)
Which leads to my final point. We are sooo lucky now. We have it so good. I watched NCAA tourney games streaming in-flight, was tired of the only game they were showing in the bar during my lay-over, so popped on to an app and picked which one I wanted to watch. On top of all of that, we’re getting to watch some of the most incredible individuals play at incredibly high levels. I know we had Jordan, but I don’t remember the uber-athletic freak Jordan, I remember the turn-around, shoulder shrug Jordan. We get to watch LeBron go from incredibly hyped teenager to super-star to villain to now the hands down best player in the NBA. Maybe it is because I was born two days before him, I feel much more of a connection to him than any athlete because I have been there through the journey. Been there in the low points, when almost every one of my friends, and girlfriends, were giving me hell for being a LeBron fan. I have been there through it all. When I witnessed that incredible game against Detroit so long ago, to finally winning a ring, I felt justified. It’s not just Lebron, right now we have two guys playing every Sunday in Spain that are doing incredible things every week. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (he is not just Ronaldo, to me that will ALWAYS be the Brazilian, who despite everything was still a legend in his own right) will go down as two of the top players of all time, and they are JUST hitting the peaks of their careers. It is just incredible to think about. We are so lucky, because not only are we in the presence of great talent, we also have an unprecedented level of access to our athletes in today’s world due to social media. We are entering a golden age of sports and I could not be happier.