Who am I?
Found this on someone's blog. Can you guess who Future NBA All-Star is? No looking up NBA ppg scoring records!
For bonus points, who was the other FNAS who knocked our boy out of the NCAA Elite Eight?
Future NBA All-Star -- hereafter referred to as FNAS -- went on to lead our men's basketball team to a 29-5 record, a conference title, and an appearance in the Elite Eight. That's where his dreams of a national title ended at the hands of a superior team with its own future NBA All-Star. FNAS had his worst performance of the season during that final game, and many people assumed that the opposing future NBA All-Star had shut him down. Not so. Did that guy play great defense against FNAS? Yes. Did the team, which really was comprised of superior players, have the defensive schemes and personnel to make FNAS work like hell for everything he got? Absolutely.
But what's less well-known is this: FNAS strained his back in the previous game, and that injury, more than anything else, held him down. I had season tickets that year, and I attended every home game but one. (In a painful bit of irony, the one game I missed was the one Larry Bird attended back when he was doing scouting work for the Celtics. The next day, there was this big picture of Bird on the front page of the school paper. I wanted to vomit.) I had watched FNAS do some truly amazing things. He really was the best college player in the country that year. I still have scars on my hands from all the high-fives I threw during those games. And let me tell you: FNAS was hurt during that Elite Eight game. He wasn't moving right. If you had watched him at all that year, you could tell he was laboring just to get up and down the court. Now, this is where someone (Cortez?) is going to call bullshit or faking or choking or something. But I will die believing that FNAS's injury is what doomed him that game. Not the team, necessarily. They might have lost anyway. But the Other Future NBA All-Star did NOT shut FNAS down.
Sure enough, FNAS left school after that season. He was unanimously named the conference player of the year. He won the John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith Award. He was also named the USBWA College Player of the Year. Not surprisingly, he went first overall in that year's NBA draft.
Like I said, FNAS was amazing during his final year in college. I honestly believed that the sky was the limit with him. Maybe he couldn't be the next Jordan, but I thought he could maybe be a better version of Dominique Wilkins. That didn't happen. Not even close. Don't get me wrong. He had one helluva career. He averaged a shade over 20 PPG over 11 NBA seasons. In fact, he ranks (yes I know this is a dead giveaway but whatever) 42nd all-time in points per game. That's right. All-time. He was named to two All-Star teams, and he won an NBA championship (although it was as a bench jockey).
Not too shabby, right? And yet when I think about FNAS, I can only think about what he didn't do. He never owned the league. Never even came close. He was never one of the top ten players in the Association. One year he ranked 16th in MVP Award Shares, so I guess you could argue that he was at least in the top twenty for a while. But, in my most humble opinion, that wasn't nearly good enough for someone with his talent.
Ultimately, I think the problem was attitude. The guy was a competitor. He wanted it. No question about it. He had some big games. In one matchup against the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls -- one of the great defensive teams of that decade -- he went shot-for-shot with Michael Jordan. Both men finished with 44 points, but MJ's team won 104-100. And that sort of defined his career: always coming up a little bit short. (It's probably worth noting that Scottie Pippen didn't play that night. Chances are, Pip wouldn't have let FNAS drop 44.)
Yeah, he wanted it, but not in the same manic, "I would step on your grandma's throat to beat you" kind of way that the great players do. FNAS wanted to be the best, but he just didn't have a bloodlust necessary to make it happen. Is that his fault, or is it a case of "either you have it or you don't"? We'll probably never know.