College basketball seemed to hit a pinnacle of parody last season as we watched #1 after #1 go down week after week. Louisville, Duke, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, et al managed to climb to the top of the AP standings as we saw games and losses we never thought were possible. This year, we started with one of the greatest nights in College Basketball as four of the top five played…each other. Michigan State-Kentucky and Kansas-Duke in early November was a night many will never forget. Even though the games lacked a certain March drama, there was an aura of March all around. The night featured some of the best players, especially the young talent on Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky. The expectations and unfair standards of college freshmen takes the stage in Today’s Topic.
College freshmen these day are about as “timid” as Gus Johnson on a Chris Johnson breakaway touchdown. Many arrive feeling they own the campus and the students owe them something since they are bringing the “Andrew Wiggins” brand to Lawrence, Kansas…obviously I’m not singling Wiggins out on that statement, just an example…from Canada. Players who are prepared to be pure NBA stars are tracked well before they ever step foot onto a college campus and expectations are meteoric. Wiggins was hailed as “The Next LeBron” long before he even donned the Jayhawk jersey and the Wiggins-Parker rivalry was gracing the web the moment the players made their commitments. “They’re playing in November? Man, gonna be some rivalry between those two, huh?” Freshmen have become stars before they even have the opportunity to become stars, household names before they even have a home. The question, is it fair?
Over the summer of 2013, this name began to creep into my ear with an eerie consistency. I seemed incapable of escaping it, but I had no idea who the bearer of the name was. A Google search for “Andrew Wiggins” quelled my curiosity and dispelled my ignorance: a high school commit to Kansas University….”The Next LeBron”. “The Next LeBron? Don’t we still have a LeBron? Do we really need a next LeBron?” I thought to myself. I waited anxiously for this college basketball season to begin and Andrew Wiggins to take the college world by storm the same way LeBron did the professional level. In mid-October I was riding around in The Shadow (my car) and heard the name “Andrew Wiggins” once more and began thinking about the comparisons already being made for the young man: “The Next LeBron”. What if he wasn’t the next LeBron? What if Andrew Wiggins was just another 6’8″ freak athlete with a silky shot who finds his isn’t quite as dominating at a different level of basketball? Look at players like Tyler Hansborough and his scary ass face, Michael Beasley, or even this year’s #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett. These were guys who dominated at the college level, but have found the NBA to be an entirely new animal which is not just a tier untouchable to them to be dominant, but even maintain a standing as a serviceable player. Was Andrew Wiggins a surefire “Next LeBron”? No one could make such a lofty claim, right?
It goes to show you how unfairly today’s media age treats young athletes. Wiggins won’t be a success even if he reaches the NBA next season and averages solid numbers. 15, 5, and 5 is not the type of stat line anyone would find acceptable from “The Next LeBron”. The kid isn’t supposed to be a perennial all-star but a perennial MVP. The line is drawn in the sand for Wiggins, the benchmark set. It lies with whatever LeBron has done throughout his career and ends with what LeBron will do throughout his career. Is there such thing as a LeBron 2.0? Many doubted the existence of a Jordan 2.0, but LeBron has come as close as anyone could’ve dreamed to fulfilling those expectations. Will Wiggins? I have no idea, you have no idea, but is it fair to expect him to? Absolutely not, because Wiggins didn’t place the label of “The Next LeBron” on himself. I have no sources reporting to me that Wiggins was waltzing around Canada, ringing a bell, and screaming, “I’m going to be as good as LeBron James….if not better!” It reminds me of a quote from The Great Gatsby, “When he wed his unutterable vision to her perishable breath, he knew his mind would never again romp like the mind of God.” That is to say, Andrew Wiggins has absolutely no hope of reaching the expectations people have place upon him. Our mind’s have created this kitschy and phenomenal image of who Andrew Wiggins is as a basketball player; however, there is no way the reality of who Andrew Wiggins will be can meet those gaudy visions. We’ve turned his pressure immeasurable, his situation impossible, and his failure inevitable. We’ve turned Andrew Wiggins into something he isn’t: “The Next LeBron” before we even gave him a chance to be “The First Andrew Wiggins”. It’s completely unfair to Wiggins and all other players who receive such unattainable comparisons and expectations. Andrew Wiggins may end up being one of the best of all time, but that makes it no more proper or fair to put the weight of such a title on him before he has even had the opportunity to prove what type of player he is. At this juncture, I’m excited to watch this season of college basketball where some of the greatest freshman talent of all time has arrived; to watch “The First Andrew Wiggins” play.