As I sat there and watched the Mavs get absolutely stomped by the Knicks last night, I sent a text message that read, “when it’s all said and done, who will be fatter, Luka or Zion?” We have all seen Zion’s struggle with fast food and ice cream unfold during his injury stint. In theory, he could bounce back and Luka seems to get a little more CHONK every year. All of that said, it led me to my next thought… Zion is a bust and hype absolutely kills top prospects in the NBA.
It’s classic. The next ________. You name it. Every single year, there is someone we have annointed the next God of the NBA, the guy who is going to take the torch and carry it into the next generation. There are STARS that come out of every draft, but since LeBron it’s not often that we’re right. And when I say “we” I mean the national media. I knew Zion would be a bust, but no one wanted to listen. Just look at the list of #1 picks since Lebron:
Overwhelming disappointment. Dwight was the next Shaq, literally. Started with the Magic and eventually signed with the Lakers.. still NOWHERE near Shaq’s dominance. Shaq was a 20&10 guy for the first THIRTEEN years of his career (year 14 he averaged 20&9). Point being, Dwight only averaged 20+ points four times in his entire career and became a journeyman at age 27… NEXT.
Oden… the next Shaq (or Dwight at that point I guess?). Injury. Broken down body. Done. Meanwhile, a guy by the name of Kevin Durant had MAJOR questions cause he couldn’t bench 185… I’d say he’s doing okay.
Then you look at that next stretch… green means they’ve been an All Star or All-NBA, sure but when you compare it to the hype they were getting, no one lived up to it! We all know the DRose injury (tragic, obviously, but longevity is part of the game). Blake had some great years with the Clippers but I still don’t think the man has won a playoff game. But seriously, never even BEEN to the conference finals. John Wall had a whole ass dance coming into the league and couldn’t get past the Celtics. I will hear an argument for Kyrie and AD, but even they couldn’t get over the hump without… you guessed it… LeBron!
Bennett never should have been drafted 1… what was that.. but that draft had no hype. Wiggins. “Maple Jordan” remember? What a flop. KAT All Star, sure… one playoff appearance.
Ben Simmons was the sure fire next LeBron. Or Magic, if you preferred the 6’10” point guard comparison and now that guy is on the couch and won’t even shoot a wide open layup in the playoffs. Fultz had the injury and then the hitch in his shot with the mental thing and then kind of got right? But he’s done… been done.
The jury is still out on the last 4 picks. Ayton has made tremendous strides with CP running point, but what about when he retires? Is he even the best player on his own team? Zion is fat and needs to get in the gym. The Timberwolves kill careers unless your name is Kevin Garnett and Cade is in his first season. We’ll see.
Hype kills, but the converse is also true. Underdogs THRIVE in the league. Think about the guys who are TRULY elite today and in recent years. Chris Paul was drafted after Bogut and Marvin Williams lol. I already mentioned KD. James Harden was the quietest 3rd overall pick ever and lived as the sixth man til the Rockets trade. Curry’s too small, too skinny, small school, slow-ish start in the league, best shooter EVER. Klay, Giannis, Kawhi, Dame, Luka/Trae, Ja, all lottery picks yes, but all had knocks. They weren’t on the hype train until they EARNED it.
Even Embiid was labeled the next Oden cause of his injury and Jokic was drafted during a quesarito commercial.
Point is.. hype kills. ESPN overhypes SOOOO much about the NBA and we’re left disappointed with a lot of guys. Pre-draft hype is the worst, but it happens during guys’ careers too. Occasionally carries over from the draft process. Rose could fall into this category. Blake jumped over a Kia. Paul George was supposed to give LeBron problems. Hate to admit it but Dame Time certainly isn’t in the playoffs. Linsanity anyone? Porzingis was a unicorn for about a year. Luka Magic seems to have had faded so far this year, too early to tell.
I understand that the media has a job to do. And that the NBA is more individual than any other team sport out there. But between ESPN, Bleacher Report and anyone else, they’re throwing darts and hope one sticks. We’re trained as fans to build this hype train around a few good months of basketball and individual moments that these guys show and the train gets derailed before it even truly gets going. We know it happens, just crazy to look back at the last 20 years of hoops and see HOW MUCH it happens.