When citizenry got settled again
If you’ve been with us long enough to remember this, then what I put forth on McSweeney's today should come as little surprise. But instead of merely flicking twigs at 2003 Royalty, I’ve opted to state an anti-Wade case that sparkles with rigor while leveling even more serious accusations against him. More importantly, my beef with him has gone from a matter of taste to a truly conscientious fear for the sturdiness of the roof towering over FreeDarko headquarters.
Central to this exhausting project, which ended up being as much about the Class of ’03 as Wade’s particular contribution to the liturgy, was the dog-earred-to-death “next Jordan” era, when designating a worthy heir was nearly as important as enjoying the Creator’s later reign. So indelible a mark did Jordan leave on this league that, until the recent dawn of faith, he continued to stand as a despotic prototype for the look, presence, style, and credentials of NBA stardom. Iverson came closest to an epochal shift, but he met with such resistance from so many quarters that, in the end, he was filed away as “special, but not Jordan material.” Whether this was because he defied the Jordan Norms or refused to assert himself hoodlessly depends perhaps on which foot you put forth first.
When trying to get my thoughts in order about Bosh (or, in all truth, trying to make him fit my argument), it dawned on me that Garnett has cast a similarly long shadow over a certain segment of Association forecastdom. Hardly exercising the quasi-religious hold of the MONMJ, but also yards apart from the tactical maneuvering of the MONJO, MONDN, and MONGA, this belief that the league was bound to see another Garnett provided refuge from the post-Jordan doldrums. If Jordan represented an impossible archetype—as well as an impossible standard against which to judge subsequent high-test guards—perhaps the answer lay in the front court, where the Wolves' star offered up a vision of the future that was nothing less than prophetic in its scorn for existing systems. Whether this impulse manifested itself in the balls-out boosterism of other, often overrated, KG-esque figurines, or the radical overstatement of the usefulness of Garnett as a scouting template, the supposition that he would recur was at least as laughable as the league’s refusal to recognize Iverson’s import.
We have dishonored the feet of Odom, Kirilenko, and D-Miles, gravely miscasting them perhaps at the expense of their true selves. . . and we have likewise reluctantly waited on Chandler, Villanueva, Blatche, and others to prove that lightning can and will strike multiple tones. As if to underscore the comedy of the situation, lately none other than Dwight Howard has suggested that he needs to start cultivating a diversified game befitting that of his idol, Garnett.
Rising star Dwight Howard aspires to be like Minnesota power forward Kevin Garnett, who is provided the freedom to post up or roam the perimeter as a means of getting open shots. Meanwhile, the Magic would prefer Howard to be more like San Antonio's Tim Duncan, a back-to-the-basket force who pounds foes down low and occasionally drops in the midrange jump shot.
"They really want me to be a power player, which is cool, but I know I don't want to just bang with somebody and fight the whole game," said Howard, whose Magic (29-44) host the Milwaukee Bucks (37-36) tonight at 7. "You don't get to do a lot down there (in the low post). Right now, I'm not one of those big guys like Shaq (O'Neal) who can just hold somebody off. Right now, I'd say I don't have the education to know how to maneuver my body around down there."
Perhaps all of this is disgustingly arbitary. Certainly, Duncan in his own way has liberated the seven-footer, as has Nowitzki. And the pick of Bosh over Amare or Howard as his generation’s most forward-thinking pivot man is largely symbolic; it follows primarily from his ’03 status, and has a ton to do with his having shown us where the bright path leads. Howard remains a work in progress, and Amare, alas, may yet go down in history as either one of the NBA’s most decisive forces or cruelest wastes. Only with Bosh have we seen a young player nurtured under the sign of El Ticketo devote a clear excess of kinetic spirit and nimble technique to life in the post, heaving with the possibility of following KG (more so than Howard, certainly) but adapting himself instead to the role he was meant to play. His game may not induce the shock of LeBron or Melo’s, but in his decision to resolve the post-Garnett era, it is no less of a benchmark in this long-term shift in priorities and call of possibilities. And while I may castigate Wade for defiling the memory of those that came before, Bosh's willingness to acknowledge the elusiveness of Garnett's example is perhaps the fondest, most lasting tribute one could pay.