So I'm not necessarily trying to discourage you from encountering my inquiry into the Bobcats, but fuck talking actual basketball. Instead, I wanted to call to your attention some especially salient rumors off of Inside Hoops. FreeDarko: we take the internet's best source for abridged NBA info and filter it even further.
Specifically, I wanted to draw your attention to two utterly disposable bits that stuck in my soul. You can keep your talk of whether or not cockroaches make for good rivalries, or whether Bowen should be executed (should've been a long time ago). I find my time better served by looking onward in the following manner:
In fact, Rod Thorn said this without much solicitation: Richard Jefferson might actually get his uniform back by midweek. "Richard has incredible recuperative powers"--Star-Ledger
Fuck athleticism, strength, and body fat content. Why isn't this measured at the combine? Willis McGahee's miraculous comeback from knee-ending surgery was hailed at the time as some kind of world record; I've always said that, given Amare's sheer physical freakishness, I wouldn't be surprised if he also came with a near-bionic ability to heal himself. I know that correlating the two is somewhat specious, but I look for the good folks in the combines to prove me wrong. Or, if cutting or wrenching players and exhaustively examining their wounds was too unethical to fly out in the open, why not make it scouting's dirty little secret? Back alley beatdowns of pampered prospects? Knoxville-like shenanigans to up one's stock? Not only would it help the NBA's image--it would also do a lot devalue bullshit "college grittiness."
Ex-NBA and North Carolina great Michael Jordan told Nuggets guard J.R. Smith that he "should have gone to North Carolina." Smith, who went to the NBA straight from high school, responded: "Yes, sir."--Denver Post
(LATE EDIT: I'd made some careless, foolish statements about UNC's deep appeal to the kids. The Recluse posted the following Tar Heel love letter in the comments, and so moved me that I replaced my mess with it. For the historical record, of course.)
Although J.R. Smith never played a game for the Tar Heels, he did make his college choice clear, signing a letter of intent to play in Chapel Hill in the autumn of his senior year of high school. It was only after he blew up in the Mickey D's game the following spring that he made his final decision to enter the NBA Draft. J.R. has since been embraced by the fabled Carolina family, even being allowed to play on the Carolina alumni team in the World's Greatest Alumni Game organized by Jerry Stackhouse and Antawn Jamison. Dwight Howard would've been a classmate of Smith's at North Carolina had he not been such a can't-miss pro prospect that Roy Williams essentially told his parents he'd be an idiot if he went to college. In order to prove something about his idiot status, God's Son announced at his press conference that he would be attending college--at UNC even--but only during the summers off from banging heads in the L.
Shoals had asked what it is about the University of North Carolina that imbues such allegiance from young roundball aspirants. I think he was underestimating just how great one Michael Jeffrey Jordan's influence is on today's ballers, even those who are too young to have really seen him play at his peak. He's inarguably (in their eyes) the greatest player of all time, and thus they want to emulate everything about him. The shoes, long shorts, the baldie, No. 23, going back to get your degree, chewing gum while playing, the suave yet flavorless off court demeanor, becoming your own brand, NOT participating in the dunk contest--these are all a direct result of His Airness. It's cliche as fuck, but people literally want to be like Mike. As recently as four years ago, LeBron used to wear UNC shorts under his uniform because Jordan wore his old shorts under his Bulls ones.
And, even though he hasn't coached in almost a decade, Dean Smith still has juice. His GOAT status is not quite as set in stone as Jordan's, but the man still commands respect. I hope I'm not just speaking as a fan and alum when I say that UNC's hoops rep is that of a place where they consistently field excellent teams that are exciting to watch (a lineage of highlight reel dunkers from Jordan to McCants), but also play "the right way" (Larry Brown did learn everything he knows in Chapel Hill, after all). Similarly, as signified by the crisp Carolina blue unis with the argyle trim, UNC has an image that is hip and classy, but not bullshit goody goody like Dook or Stanford or throwback corny like Indiana used to be under Bobby Knight. All of that is a result of Coach Smith, who like a good parent, taught his players how to succeed, while also letting them be themselves.
Beyond Jordan and Dean, the "Carolina Family" phenomenon is for real and really unrivalled in college sports. Players know that if they go to UNC, Jordan will likely stop by a practice, you'll play against a Stackhouse or Jamison during the summer, and so on. Look at how Jordan and Stackhouse have taken J.R. under their wings, and he never participated in one class or practice at UNC!
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that a lot of ballers identify with North Carolina from a very early age, so it's not surprising to me that they would seek to be a part of the Family if offered the invitation.
Note: In the interest of full disclosure, we reveal that The Recluse was a student at the University of North Carolina for almost a third of his life.