Henry Chinaski is not Spider-Man

The NBA All-Star Weekend is, as much as anything else, a sort of Topsy-Turvy celebration, where traditional roles are set aside and the hierarchy of the league is put in reverse for one glorious weekend. In the three-point contest, specialists dominate MVPs in a supposedly objective contest. (I don't really acknowledge the presence of the other two All-Star Saturday events, but if you wanted to stick with the theory, the skills contest is a measure of the individual abilities of those whose best attribute is making their teammates better, and the Shooting Stars Competition is basketball as a boring and miserable exercise.) The dunk contest has come to celebrate something wholly different from what it claims to be, celebrating style and creativity rather than showcasing the pure awe that MJ, Dominique, and Vince were able to instill during their reigns over the contest. Consider the post-Carter dunk contest champions: Jason Richardson now leads the league in threes made. Fred Jones, Desmond Mason and Gerald Green are in various stages of irrelevance. 0% of Nate Robinson's shots in games are dunks. (I'll get to Josh Smith later.)

This year, of course, was the exception. Dwight Howard is the most functional dunker of my lifetime, and while I was 7 years old when proto-Shaq left the Magic, I can't really imagine making more impact by dunking the ball than Howard is now-he's a legitimate top-10 player in the league and a full third of his shots are dunks, and even when he doesn't dunk he changes the defense, as they must keep someone between him and the basket at all possible times in fear of the alley-oop. When he plays, the court pulsates with the power of dunk. And yet his dunk contest was marked by triumphs of style rather than substance, with his signature dunk being a show of smoke and mirrors while THE BIRTHDAY CAKE was, like Howard's tragically futile sticker dunk, a demonstration of substance-as-style, and the contest ended with Green doing a ridiculously difficult dunk that didn't photograph well (seriously, try jumping off a hardwood floor in socks), while Howard did a two-handed windmill using a toy hoop.

When a guy who just got waived rides for degree of difficulty while an MVP candidate goes for style points, it just tells you that All-Star weekend is a distorted time. (Disclaimer: In no way did that paragraph mean to deprecate Howard's deservingness, mainly due to the Inverted Windmill and the Ambitastic Tappy-Oop, it's just saying that Howard based his claim on style while Green dealt more in degree of difficulty, which is odd considering their relative ability.)

Of course, the game itself is the greatest example of All-Star Weekend's spirit of casting aside the shackles of team roles, as players, especially for the first three quarters, govern their games by what they feel they should be instead of what they are told to be. Watching the All-Star game often reminds me of the story in The Blind Side where Michael Oher, the 6-7, 280-pound future offensive tackle, showed up to play basketball for his tiny high school not with the game of a banger who lived in the paint, but as a shooting guard who preferred to gracefully handle the ball and rip threes off the dribble, because he'd learned the game by practicing alone on the street and had never even seen himself in the mirror.

In other words, he played like a guard because nobody had ever told him that he was a big man. This is reflected by The All-Star Game's freeing nature; we get to see Dwight Howard only taking dunks, Rasheed Wallace popping left-handed threes, Yao launching threes himself, Jason Kidd getting 10 assists but only shooting twice, AI dishing out 6 assists and only shooting 7 times, 'Melo shamelessly gunning, VC treating basketball as aesthetic exhibition as opposed to athletic competition, and the like.

But look at the MVP of the contest. He went for 27/8/9 on 12-22 from the floor and 2-7 from deep. His season averages are 31/8/7 on 22 shots and 5 threes. In other words, for LeBron, the All-Star Game, when players can do as they feel, was exactly like any other game. Even his signature play, the game-sealing dunk, was a slashing dunk through traffic instead of a VC/T-Mac show, the kind of highlight he generally provides within the context of a game.

It's not even that LeBron is the least inhibited superstar we've seen since, like, ever: it's that it makes sense. At the highest level of basketball LeBron played before the big show, he took the tip, brought the ball up, hit the boards, slung dimes, just generally did the whole thing up, and now he's more or less doing what he feels in the pros. Some will tell you that some Coach K in LeBron would have done him right; footwork down low, form in the mid-range game, etc. This is untrue. Sure, he might have some fundamentals, but would they have come at the cost of the freedom that makes him as he is? That's a rhetorical question.

Several folk have noted that the best players in the league are from the high school cloth; according to Race For the MVP, the best player in the L has been McGrady, Howard, LBJ, Kobe, or KG for all but one week, and Amare remains the unsung MVP candidate. What stands out about these players is not just how good they are but how unique they are, with the possible exception of Kobe, who didn't go to college but did intern at the Zen Academy.

LeBron is a dominant big man who plays de facto point guard on the perimeter. Howard eschews traditional big-man offense and instead just finds creative ways to use the power of dunk. KG has struck the elusive balance between "little-big" and "big-big" skills. Amare makes his office not on the blocks but by catching passes at he top of the circle and thundering downward. T-Mac works the point forward. (Even before the class of '95, the guys blazing the trails were from the closest thing to high school ball, the land of the small college, which gave us Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman in their unconventional glory.)

Even the non-all star HS guys work in powerful and mysterious ways; Josh Smith might be one of the best defensive players in the league as a shot-blocking shooting guard. The Warriors, the league's most unconventionally fantastic team, employ only two rotation players who have ever set foot in college, and one of them is demi-god Baron Davis, who played to his own beat even at the Church of Wooden. (Unrelated note on the Warriors, prompted by the Mavericks losing Nowitzki and still yet to beat a winning team after their panic trade: not only are the Warriors capable of beating anyone, at any time, essentially based on the health of their spirit animals, they are perfectly capable of claiming a team's soul as part of the transaction.)

Last time I talked about college basketball, I advocated for the value of a good role player coming out of college, as many of the guys laden with "upside" and expectations end up falling short, while guys who know how to do their jobs are overlooked and cause chagrin among all when they continue to do their jobs well in the NBA. Upon further review, I've pretty much decided that college basketball's system of assigning roles is purely and simply evil no matter what. Players like J. Smith would be shackled to the confinements of being a traditional shooting guard, robbing us of his high-flying exploits at power forward. Monta Ellis would be told to run the point. Amare and Dwight would have been told to quit their flights of fancy and stick their butts on the blocks. THIS WAS DAVID LEE. Josh Smith is not effective despite his rawness: He is effective because he is allowed to be raw.

Even those given absolute freedom in college end up shackled by their role as savior: Instead of being allowed the key to unlocking his talents at his own place and find his game, Durant was thrown into the role of savior and is now being forced to suffer by a team whose only move to develop him in any sort of positive way was to trade for Donyell Marshall, who shall serve as a vivid and horrifying reminder to Durant of what he could someday become. Hell, look at AI; every time he's had talent around him, in the Olympics or the All-Star game, and to a lesser degree with Denver, he practically aches to show the world he is not a ball-hog at his core, but has been shoehorned into being one by the likes of Kevin Ollie. (If you want my take on B-Easy; I fear for him as well. A fast power forward who can take big guys off the dribble from the free throw line and become a bigger David West, a faster Carlos Boozer, or Super-Bonzi? Good Policy. A guy who's slow for an elite NBA perimeter player and favors fadeaways from 21 feet and turns the ball over twice as much as he gets assists given 20 shots a game and told to make it work? Bad Policy.)

For all the noise about HS guys being thrust into the limelight too quickly, coming into the NBA incomplete and mercurial will always be better than having to shoulder the burden of perceived completion; by being allowed to find the music of their own games, the HS guys eventually found an off-beat form of truth as yet unrivaled by any other category of player. Even LeBron, who came in wearing savior white, was allowed to find his way in Cleveland, who experimented with him at the point but eventually stuck him on the wing, took Ricky Davis and D-Miles out back and shot them, and allowed him to run things as he always had and shall continue to do.

The age limit is an affront to what makes basketball great; basketball-as-jazz is something we refer to as little as possible here, but the age limit puts Coltrane in a symphony. But it's not going away, and it might even get raised soon, so we should make the most of our chance to appreciate the rare and off-center diamond that is the High School player while we still can, who base their games on what they are rather than what they were told to be, and find greatness where they could not be shown to look. And if the age limit applied to sports bloggers, you'd be reading this in The Daily Trojan. The age limit sucks.

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At 3/24/2008 9:34 AM, Blogger paper tiger said...

kid, if it was in the daily trojan, i'd subscribe. great post.

At 3/24/2008 10:08 AM, Blogger Unknown said...


At 3/24/2008 10:42 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

The post was very FD. The most FD post I have read here in a while but to play the Devil, (who surely is the one entity most certainly not in need of an advocate). A marriage consummated four years after to the utter disappointment of everyone is the base element for manic depression.

Stern says "beware of false prophets" and the Stern one is all knowing. Even the great Kevin Pritchard sees the wisdom of his ways as he walks his lonely Miles. The faint glimmer in the dust might be valuable but the rush that follows will leave more folks busted than boosted. Diamond in the rough? 4 yrs 10 million (average), the feeling of investing of investing in a barren mine? Priceless.

At 3/24/2008 11:37 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Great post, Krolik. The All-Star stuff feels a bit irrelevant, but when you got to discussing HS players, it got real good. Hard to disagree with your argument. And seeing old school David Lee is a nice touch.

I wonder what would have happened if Vince Carter was not "turned" into a standard shooting guard at NC. Would he have been Josh Smith's prototype?

The real question is this: how much blame do NBA coaches get for letting college coaches determine what their players can and cannot do. Like why not have Durant at PF in the NBA right now? Sort of how they can let China dictate that Yi is a SF, when just one year earlier Bargnani (similar style) was deemed a PF/C (at first). How about blaming most NBA coaches for lacking Don Nelson's creativity with "roles"?...

At 3/24/2008 12:52 PM, Blogger enoogs said...

College is the land of the 6'3" power forward. Let's not paint with too broad a brush the evils of "system" play. Power schools will kill the freedarko in a player, will cut the Lisa Simpson sax solo and send her to the end of the bench. Is AI generous at times because of his teammates, or because he's 5'6"? College is the land where Marcus Camby is better than Tim Duncan.

At 3/24/2008 12:54 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

i knew by the end of the first paragraph that this was another solid post by krolik. all of the freedarko insight with none of the ostentation. bravo, young fella!

At 3/24/2008 1:04 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

I wonder about the logic with "HS stars' greatness is due in part to never being forced into a role."

I think that really great players are necessarily unique, because excellence transcends what has come before. Dominant players are unique because they are just so damn good.

At 3/24/2008 1:19 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Dear Kyle and WM--

Not to threadjack here, but I find it hilarious when people bemoan how un-FD Freedarko has become, or that our ostentation is getting in the way of who we really are (or should be).

This site's style and views have changed a bunch since its inception. Not to mention that, by and large, it's been yours truly making those pronouncements. So fine, tell me I'm lacking in FD-ness. I don't mean to wax egotistical, but it this case the tautology is kind of common sense.

And plus. . . sorry if this site has lacked something lately. I think it's been pretty good, but admittedly, I'm knee-deep in trying to put together a 225-page book. It's kind of a small distraction.

Apologies if this comes off as ridiculously defensive, I just don't like have my FD-ness called into question when I'm busting my ass trying to put together an FD book.

At 3/24/2008 1:36 PM, Blogger enoogs said...

Shoals - you can now no longer be a member of the club you started. Harold Miner has determined you (Jordan) are not FD-enough to stick around. Groucho Marxisms aside, I think there may be some Animal Farm logic at work in these criticisms.

At 3/24/2008 1:37 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

College is the land where Marcus Camby is better than Tim Duncan.

No, that would be fantasy basketball.

vw: tjbic, as Kelly Dwyer has said, TJ Ford rhymes with bic...

At 3/24/2008 1:40 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


forgive the small mindedness. Sometimes it is the forest that gets in the way the trees.

At 3/24/2008 1:55 PM, Blogger The Cruise said...


You should do a post that compares your own fragile mental state to The Matrix.

Stop searching hi and lo for perceived slights against you.
You are a good writer and the entire reason people come here, but paranoia is unbecoming.

At 3/24/2008 2:01 PM, Blogger Leonardson Saratoga said...

sometimes i get tired of the ball-licking, amateurish "great post man! ::slaps back and high fives::" shit that goes on around here. I feel like the FD team knows they put up good posts, can't we chat about the merits of what is inside the post without that shit?

With that said, I would like to tell Krolik that this is a really, really solid 800 word post. The problem is, that post got lost in the other 1000 words that were written. I would guess such is the breaks for a young writer, keep at it young fella.

But your Daily Trojan analogy interests me. I think that you can admit that there are merits (in regards to development as a writer) to both having access to a (relatively) large FD community to bounce 1800 words off of, as well as access to an editor at the DT who can help you cut it down. Such is the case in college v. pro too. Certainly there are some players that simply do not need to go to college (Oden and Durant are debatable, imo...but Howard, Kobe, KG, LeBron, probably Josh Smith, etc.) and for that the age limit is stupid. Considering that is the main argument of the post, you are right. But as with all writing on FD there is more to the post.

There are many (a majority, perhaps) in the pro game that needed college. If Emeka Okafor would have come out of high school, would he have been Dwight Howard? doubtful, my guess might be Robert Swift. Four years of college helped him hone his post game and the skills that have made him an effective pro center. Is he really playing below what he should be? I say no.

For players whose talents simply don't have a certain position (read: players who are "FreeDarko") the college game is dangerous. But we must remember that this is a small n when it comes to the NBA. While there are a handful of players who wow us with their ability to do things that aren't within their positional realm in the game, many in the NBA do (and rightly so) succumb to normal positional attributes.

At 3/24/2008 2:16 PM, Blogger enoogs said...

re. Camby, Duncan, and fantasy:
Camby: 17pts, 9rb, 3 bl
Duncan: 9pts, 12rb, 4bl

I think that is better.

At 3/24/2008 2:23 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I know the paranoia is unbecoming, not in the least because it looks like I'm fishing for compliments. And I'm not.

This is partly about my having time and energy to relax and do all I can do for this site. When I know I'm doing that, I'm not that concerned with one or two negative comments.

At 3/24/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Leonardson Saratoga it hit on the nail - the FD player is worse off playing in college (even Durant?); but that's a relatively small subset of NBA players in general.

Here's a different direction to take this conversation: does this age limit therefore make foreigners the only place to find style and FD-ness in the future?

wv: jazbedd: where my jazz hands get busy.

At 3/24/2008 2:45 PM, Blogger j said...

...this post reminds me of the K-State "run" in the tournament, only b/c of Bill Walker. His journey as a sidekick is well-documented (ESPN Mag a few issues ago) but the guy is all over the place and looks scary as a shooting guard. No doubt Beasley/OJ have their skills a little more in check, but I'd like to see Walker run wild.

Also, on V. Carter--Jamison was definitely viewed as the go to guy on Carolina. Carter's fame soon eclipsed Jamison's, though their actual usefulness is probably evening out a bit now.

What's funny is that this post seemed to omit the H.S. guys that didn't make it...that should have been steered towards "system" (i.e. college) but were celebrated b/c they were the most "raw" in 100 miles. Maybe they couldn't get in college...does the D-League have an age limit?

At 3/24/2008 2:50 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Is that all Gerald is? Green corn? I thought we had something special.

At 3/24/2008 3:08 PM, Blogger jtduffin said...

Wait. What? How exactly does college ball serve non-FD/unpolished/whatever-distinction-you-want-to-make players better than being in the NBA as bench players?

Is the argument here that they're better off because they aren't getting paid to play? (Seems unlikely.) Or that their game will develop better against inferior competition than in practice against NBA-level players? My impression is that we think these players benefit from playing in college - relative to jumping straight to the NBA - because that's how it's been done historically.

I'd think that in practice, there is probably some number of players whose skills develop in college such that they eventually get drafted by an NBA team, where they would not have made it to the NBA otherwise. (Though I don't know how many players would be so much better suited to the college environment (whatever that is) than the pros that they wouldn't have done equally well training in some lower-level professional league, e.g. the NBADL, Euroleagues, the Chinese league, etc.)

But other than that, what's so special about playing basketball in college? Does your game get better because you're better than most of your teammates, instead of being the least-good on your NBA team? (Maybe it does! I've never played pro ball, how would I know?)

At 3/24/2008 3:09 PM, Blogger Leonardson Saratoga said...

sml et al.-
I don't think that its fair to definitively say that the age limit "ruins" players or "takes the FD out of them," so to speak. I think that will remain to be seen. Remember that earlier this year, when the Blazers were runnin shit, people were talking about how wonderful it was that Pritchard held onto Outlaw and Webster and let them develop (for 3 and 5 years in the league, respectively). We will certainly see players whos FD has been ruined in college, but I think as the system evolves we will see players who are FD with fundamentally sound elements to their game all at the same time (remember that the Greatest Ever spent two years in college, with one of the strictest coaches in the game)

At 3/24/2008 4:20 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...


Players on this list who went to college: Gilbert (#1), Lamar (#3, but one year, so maybe that doesn't count), Marquis Daniels (#4), Ron Artest (#5), Gerald (#6), Sheed (#12), Iggy (#13), Melo (#14), McCants (#17), Iver Anderson (#18; again, thank you goathair for that wonderful name), Felton (#21), Josh Howard (#23), Caron Butler (#25), Ben Wallace (#28, but I'll let Virginia Union fall into Krolik's small schools argument), Joe Johnson (#29), Shawn Marion (#30), Bonzi Wells (#33), Randy Foye (#34), Ray Allen (#35), Mike James (#37), Etan Thomas (#39), Vince Carter (#40), Larry Hughes (#41), David Lee (#42), Chris Wilcox (#43), Steve Nash (#44), Chris Bosh (#45), Eddie Griffin (#47), Ronnie Brewer (#48), Tyrus Thomas (#49), Smush Parker (#50).

The point being that playing in college does not necessarily impede your progress towards becoming unique or interesting. You could certainly make the argument that these guys only showed up on here because so many NBA players necessarily come from college, but that doesn't change the fact that they went to college and ended up just fine. Many of them were early entries, but the age limit's only one year. I think LeBron would have been just fine if he'd gone to college for a year. (It's worth saying that a lot of the people on this list come from SEC schools, which really doesn't surprise me at all.)

"Hell, look at AI; every time he's had talent around him, in the Olympics or the All-Star game, and to a lesser degree with Denver, he practically aches to show the world he is not a ball-hog at his core, but has been shoehorned into being one by the likes of Kevin Ollie."

Don't we say the same things about Kobe? What does college have to do with it?

At 3/24/2008 4:25 PM, Blogger Trey said...

The thing about Durant and college is that his time at Texas should have made people realize he'd do fine as a 3/4 (rebounding and all that stuff), but PJ has been too busy trimming his beard to realize he's got Kid Delicious out of position.

At 3/24/2008 4:31 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

"Unrelated note on the Warriors, prompted by the Mavericks losing Nowitzki and still yet to beat a winning team after their panic trade: not only are the Warriors capable of beating anyone, at any time, essentially based on the health of their spirit animals, they are perfectly capable of claiming a team's soul as part of the transaction."

This is some pretty stupid shit. That is all.

At 3/24/2008 4:46 PM, Blogger Dan Filowitz said...

A couple of things that need to be addressed here:

- Haven't we seen plenty of college coaches adjust systems for great players? Not so much for the old-school "coaching greats" (i.e. Bob Knight, etc.) but couldn't you argue that, say, Barnes designed his strategy around having Durant?

- Don't a lot of these guys get pigeon-holed into positions prior to college? It's not like high schools (or AAU, or anywhere else people play before turning 18) are necessarily known to be bastions of free-thinking and revolutionary basketball tactics.

wv: ftpxv: free throw percentage multiplies victories (if announcers during Memphis games are to be believed)

At 3/24/2008 4:50 PM, Blogger Leonardson Saratoga said...

actually you couldn't say that Barnes designed his strategy around having Durant, you must have missed most Texas games last year.

And I would argue that high schools are somewhat bastions of free-thinking basketball because many basketball coaches who have a guy like Amare or Howard or LeBron aren't going to be ego-maniacal enough (as many college coaches are) to think they can turn this player into their own vision of what he should be. (this has no empirical evidence, so it is purely speculation, albeit speculation that I feel is right.

At 3/24/2008 5:12 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...

@Ty-I wouldn't say that college extinguishes uniqueness in players, but I definitely think it hinders it. As for Gilbert, I think he's with me here: http://my.nba.com/thread.jspa?threadID=5700000352

@Dan-I definitely thought a lot about the players who are given almost total freedom in college, but I think in Durant's case it came back to bite him at the pro level, as it often does.

@Leonard: Nah, let's keep the back-patting going. Shoals isn't the only insecure guy on staff.

At 3/24/2008 5:35 PM, Blogger Dan Filowitz said...

No, I saw plenty of Texas games last year. And the (fewer) ones I saw this year look different.

I'm sure there are similarities in overall philosophy, but I'm sure that Barnes ran several "let's try to get Durant the ball here and then let him do what he does" type plays last year, and he runs different ones this year to capitalize on the strengths of his other players.

In the spirit of back-patting, I should say that I liked this post a lot, and am only asking questions since it is question-raising, which to me is a good thing.

At 3/24/2008 5:44 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I agree with you in principle; I just think you're exaggerating the effect. We don't really know how much college constrains these guys -- your Iverson example is as much about his personality as anything else. Is his to-score/not-to-score crisis really more about John Thompson making him a point guard (and I think anyone who watched him play at Georgetown knows that he basically did everything while playing that position -- it was really just a position name) or the result of years of basketball dogma (at every level) dictating how we view players. Gilbert's problems with positional pigeonholing are just as much about NBA thinking as NCAA thinking. Lute never told Arenas (or, as that article shows, Jason Gardner, or even Jason Terry or Mike Bibby, or, at other positions, Iggy and Hassan Adams and Ivan Radenovic) to do one thing -- those guys were just players in Tucson.

Again, the coachball of college certainly asks some players to conform beyond reason. I'm just not sure it causes any sort of irreparable damage or has any more of an effect than similar forces at play in the NBA.

I'm going to write a defense of college ball soon -- hopefully we can talk about similar things then.

At 3/24/2008 6:04 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

The best argument I can think of for college ball allowing some guys to develop is this: for some players, it's better to practice techniques against inferior competition. Emeka is a good example of this. I don't think he's going to develop his offhand hook shot playing against the Dwights and Duncans every night, because if he comes into the league at 18 he's going to be so overmatched in every regard that I don't think he'd even be able to try a move he's not fully comfortable with. And yeah, I realize that you hone your arsenal in practice, not during real games, but at some point you have to try out a new move a few times before you're fully comfortable with it. Who do you bust that left handed up-and-under on the first time to build your confidence - Kevin Pitsnogle, or Shaq? College can give guys an opportunity to build their games and get comfortable against competition that allows them to screw up and still be valuable players.

I submit that you can only learn NBA defense against NBA players, though. And also that for guys that are athletically (or otherwise) superior, they might as well just join the lig. Lebron had nothing more to learn by going to college except that averaging 25/8/8 is far more satisfying in the NBA.

At 3/24/2008 6:28 PM, Blogger Chest Rockwell said...

I think it's interesting that you talk about Gerald Green at length in the first part of your post but then don't mention him at all during the high school vs college discussion, since Green seems like a perfect example of the pitfalls of skipping the structure/discipline of college and jumping right to the pros. The kid was raw as hell when he came into the league and has since failed to develop one iota under the "direction" of Doc Rivers and Randy Whittman. Now there's a very real chance that he's going to spend the rest of his days in D-League/Euroball purgatory. It's impossible to say if a year (or two or three) in college would have necessarily helped him harness his outrageous athleticism into a coherent game, but I don't see how it could have hurt.

At 3/24/2008 8:04 PM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

byron, along those same lines, i think the age limit is great in that it exposes over-hyped players, the case-in-point being the undersized pudgy 2-guard at indiana who has shot like 20% the last 2 months. gordon was a "sure-fire" top-3 pick, but now i don't think he breaks the top-10 if he leaves after this year -- his game was exposed. i guess you could make the argument that his game was contained, but i just don't think that works. for certain players (kobe, lebron, dwight howard), there is no need for college b/c their god-given talent is so supreme, they can skip a level and let their talent manifest itself in the Association as their talent sees fit.

also, would foreign players like manu or barbosa fall into this category? manu plays with his own zest and style (some would argue he is "FD" but i think, as this thread shows, enough with that term, just say what you want and people can discern whether someone is FD or not) for a 2, knifing through the lanes and canning big 3s, and barbosa is essentially a foreign version of monta ellis.

i think wondering mind was beginning to touch on this, but the NBA just wasn't used to high school players being in the game and organizations did not know how to cultivate it. in portland, with outlaw and webster both emerging this year, and with louis williams in philadelphia, teams are drafting players that they know have talent and letting the talent manifest itself, not forcing things.

krolik, i understand the title of the post, but i think it is semi-ironic since bukowski hemmed and hawed for about 50 years before he developed his own style in poetry and short stories -- in essence, though chinaski (bukowski's fictional self) is not spiderman, bukowski is certainly "the rare and off-center diamond" of 20th century american writers who "found greatness where they could not be shown to look."

along those same lines, is john fante to bukowski as scottie pippen is to josh smith?

At 3/24/2008 8:09 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...


Yeah, that is exactly what I was getting at with the title. And Leandro Barbosa does not begin to approach Monta Ellis. Monta is a fucking G.

At 3/24/2008 8:18 PM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

very true, nobody else can finger-roll from the elbow on a fast-break like monta. barbosa (can't we drop the leandro and just call him barbosa like nene and the other brasilian footballers?) relies on the mid-range J way too much to be considered in monta's stratosphere, but i think their similar balls-to-the-wall, 110MPH style is comparable, particularly interesting when one comes from the Deep South and the other Brasil and neither passed through the NCAA's and billy packer's all-knowing eye.

also, @ zeke, how can you disagree with the warriors marcellus wallace-ing the mavs and stealing their soul. with the german going down i can't see them making the playoffs, quite a fall from grace for a team that was 2 W's away from a chip and a different team completely from the NELLIEBALL nash/findawg/dirk mavs of the early 00's

At 3/24/2008 8:53 PM, Blogger paper tiger said...

two thoughts that other people have sort of touched on-
1) obviously, part of whatever contributes to a player being FD can be their having a skill set that doesn't correspond to what's expected of their body type. so that just makes it weird to try to talk about FD in college, to an extent that within that different realm it should almost mean the opposite, or you just have to acknowledge that its too different to be a meaningful gauge. as someone mentioned above- college is the land of the 6'3" pf.
2) i think the nba can play just as much of a restricting role as college. i don't watch enough college to offer good examples, but isn't the 6'3" player who runs buckwild and excels in college but is forced to be a mediocre pg in the nba a pretty standard archetype?
and at leonard- i'm awfully sorry to hear that you're so disappointed with the appreciation that fd's readers express. thanks for showing us how best to comment on a blog.

At 3/24/2008 10:29 PM, Blogger Krolik1157 said...


1. I've been main-lining In Treatment on demand for the last week, and that comment is DEAD out of the show. Trippy.

2. It's difficult for me to talk about Gerald Green. I maintain hope his story is not yet complete.

3. Tell me how Green's failing was different than James White's, who came out after 4 years in college.

At 3/25/2008 12:25 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

While I agree with the general premise, I'm not sure that we can write off all the players like Baron Davis, Iverson, and Arenas.

I am more inclined to read the high proportion of uniquely spectacular high school players as a manifestation of their transcendent talent. Rather than avoiding the supposedly stifling pressure and spotlight of being a former elite college player, perhaps the Kobes and Smiths were able to leap directly to the NBA because it was already clear that their singular skillsets would (potentially) translate so spectacularly. This simply wasn't yet clear for some players.

I say "potentially" because of the Gerald Greens, DaJuan Wagners, and (sad) Darius Mileses of the world--scouting isn't perfect. I'm also not sure Yao's true basketball animal spirit necessarily involves him jacking threes.

At 3/25/2008 2:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case you didn't see it -- J.R. Smith scored 25 of the Nuggets 32 4th quarter points. 7 threes and 8/10 from the field overall in the 4th. God damn right.

Derek Fisher wrestled in high school -- fundamental takedown.

At 3/25/2008 10:28 AM, Blogger mdesus said...


At 3/25/2008 11:13 AM, Blogger T. said...

I think a mistake that most commentators (both here and in the general basketball commentary populace) is thinking about this in purely basketball terms. Whether or not college would have helped kids like Ndubi Ebi or Gerald Green or that kid who took a bunch of sleeping pills and told the cops he was an Indian fighting cowboys in a basketball sense is something that we could argue about for the next 50 years and not come to any sort of conclusion.

But I assume for the rest of you and for most NBA players, college was a good time to learn maturation and independence. Didn't you hear stories of Kobe's first couple of years on the Lakers where he couldn't relate to anyone? or TMac sleeping 17 hours a day in hs first year with the Raps because he didn't have any friends aside from Kobe. College was a really good lesson on how to relate to people, how to live independently, how to manage time.

I would argue that the players mentioned as the reason for abolishing the age limit has to do with their superior talent and innate work ethic (well for most). But for many, college can instill a work ethic into players who are extraordinarily talented. I liken it to the kids who sleep through high school and then get to a top university and get their asses kicked, because everyone there is both SMART AND HARD WORKING. And you need to learn to take your game and COMBINE it with hard work. Man, now I sound like an apostle for right way basketball - but for the majority of the NBA, they know there's another 2,000 players just as talented as they are waiting to take their jobs. And sometimes the lessons of hard work & maturation can only be learned in college.

At 3/25/2008 11:22 AM, Blogger mdesus said...

Also El it's Leandrihno (fyi ihno is ito in spanish)

At 3/25/2008 4:20 PM, Blogger Jacob Leland said...


That seems like a red herring. Ask someone who went to the workforce after high school, and he'll likely tell you that those late adolescent years are a good time to learn maturation and independence, how to relate to people, and how to manage time. Look around a college campus, and you'll find kids having trouble making friends and fitting in, and sleeping 17 hours/day. In the NBA, all that comes with a million-dollar paycheck.

Plus, are Kobe and McGrady really a good argument against going to the Association out of high school?

At 3/25/2008 5:53 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Krolik, good post, but your youth shows.
College does not shackle great players. Great players will be great players, regardless. 'Nique, Jordan, Magic, Bird, Dream, Clyde the Glide, Malone, Stockton, Kareem...they all played college ball. And while most of those guys fit into traditional roles, not all of them did (Magic, Bird). College has never held down greatness. What about Deron Williams? Shaq? Steve Nash? As for labelling, if asked, 10 out of 10 sportswriters would call Lebron a small forward. That's merely a product of his height and people's natural tendency to categorize. No, I think your post misses the point, and the point is this: the age limit is bad for the game because, just as college cannot hold down greatness, neither can college make a great player even greater (as recent history demonstrates). If a player has the skill set, the size, and the mentality, I don't care if he's 12, let him play (if he wants to, although there would be child labor laws to consider). The only conceivable reason to keep a kid in school is (I guess) for "maturation" (like throwing horny coeds and tons of liquor at a kid is going to help any). But I don't think Tmac, Kobe, KG or any of the others you mentioned really struggled to mature.
My dad really nailed it when he told me, "you know, I used to think that it was stupid for kids to go to the pros right out of high school, but then I got to thinking about it and realized that, if I were given the choice, I would do the same. You can always go back and get your education. You can't always go back and play ball."

As for the closing line, hubris and bad logic mar an otherwise well-written piece (ironic, considering the content). But I don't mean to sound overly critical, really great job. It's articles like this that keep me coming back to FD--if Slam were this well written, I'd probably subscribe (I haven't read Slam in over a year, so I don't know).

At 3/25/2008 5:56 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Oh yeah, and let me throw in Chris Paul as another one of the "played college basketball, still great" players.

At 3/25/2008 6:21 PM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

nicholas, as a rebuttal to your argument, while college might not be needed for tmac, kobe, or KG, i think the wizards post-kwame brown, the pacers post-jonathan bender, etc. would have been more than happy to see those guys play college ball for a year. we have seen even with donte green or eric gordon or deandre jordan this year, these guys were "Surefire" lottery picks and now they will probably come back to school for a year. this is undoubtedly a GREAT thing for the NBA, as overhyped high schoolers don't wind up costing a franchise not only millions of dollars but years of ineptitude.

then there is the case of jason fraser, the former amityville NY star who, prior to the age limit being set (he was in the same grade as amare) went to villanova for 4 years where he was promptly injured. now he has a degree, but not the millions, i guess it is up to a person to decide what is better. fact of the matter is, he could have gone pro and now would have that money but no degree. you think villanova would accept him now? no way. you can't always go back and get your education, as you say, i would say 95% of these guys would not have the interest nor the grades to get into a college without the basketball coach offering him scholarship to play.

i agree with you about how players can still flourish in college doing their thing (case in point being stephen curry this year), but i disagree w/ the age limit not being necessary. if guys want to earn a living, do what stephen jackson did, who played in the CBA, dominican republic, and venezuela before finally catching on the NBA after being a star at oak hill.

At 3/25/2008 7:11 PM, Blogger Joel le Basket said...

Anything that brings me back to the unfulfilled potential of the White/Lee Gators is a great post. Fucking phenomenal all around.

As a fellow Trojan I have to agree. Fuck the DT. "Aids and Comedy in South Africa."

At 3/25/2008 7:28 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

"you think villanova would accept him now? no way. you can't always go back and get your education, as you say, i would say 95% of these guys would not have the interest nor the grades to get into a college without the basketball coach offering him scholarship to play."

You're missing the point. Most people see college as a means to an end (the end being a career, i.e. money). If an NBA player has invested wisely, then what use is college? Those that want to can go back, those that don't, won't. I'm certain that an NBA player interested in furthering his education after (or even during) his career would be able to make the grades at a state school. And if a player isn't interested in getting his degree, why make him? Is college really that important? How many times have you heard someone say "what I do now has nothing to do with my degree"?
Honestly, it's just something to do with your life while you figure out what you really want to do with your life. If Lebron already knows that he wants to play basketball professionally, and he has the skill, the physical ability, and the necessary mentality at the age of 18, what good would it do to make him wait until he is 21?
The only valid argument I can think of is that a few years in school might help him to guard himself against those who would try to take advantage of his age, a role that should reside with the family anyway.

At 3/25/2008 7:44 PM, Blogger T. said...

DJ Slick Watts - No, I think TMac and Kobe are just examples of players who would've succeeded no matter college or not. I was suggesting that just because a handful of guys are successful at it doesn't mean it's a good idea. I think it wasn't clearly thought out the first time.

At 3/25/2008 10:06 PM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

this isn't the NFL, which mandates 3 years in college (must be 3 yrs from graduating HS), it is only 1 year. nobody is saying its 21 (unless you're OJ mayo).

beasley is a 1 and done, so was durant and oden. they lived up to the hype, got to go to college for a year and are/will be making millions. it saves NBA franchises the hard luck of finding out that deandre jordan or eric gordon isn't as good as perceived playing against a bunch of chumps in high school.

At 3/27/2008 6:30 AM, Blogger Notorious D.I.G. said...

Everybody's missing the point. Obviously nobody here has played any sort of meaningful organized ball.

It's not about college or pro game. It's about coaching and environment. Is the coach gonna let you play through mistakes? Are you even gonna get minutes? Are the ast. coaches and other players gonna help you really grind it through practice and drills?

Emeka got the same thing in 4 years at UConn. that JO got in 4 years at Portland.

At 4/13/2009 3:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




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