By Ryan McNeill
What is with our societies insatiable desire to find the next best thing?
Whether it’s a quicker computer, a more fuel efficient car or being the person to uncover the next sports prodigy we are always on the prowl for the next best thing.
What happened to enjoying what we have right now?
I was shocked when I read USA Today’s final player rankings for the 2007 senior class and Rob Harrington wrote that, “anyone who watched O.J. Mayo at last month’s McDonald’s All-American Game might wonder how Mayo could remain the flag-bearer for his high school class.”
I’m baffled as to why a basketball prodigy’s basketball career should be tarnished because of one bad outing in an All-Star game. What happened to judging someone on his entire high school career? Mayo has been in the public eye since he was in sixth grade and has been playing high school basketball since he was in the seventh grade. Common sense would dictate that a six-year high school career would be more than enough time to judge what kind of player someone is. One All-Star game shouldn’t do anything to add or subtract from their rankings.
Later in the same article Harrington wrote, “The sad timing of Mayo’s McDonald’s disaster was that, just one day earlier, he had blitzed the West team in a scrimmage. He scored 31 points on a series of NBA moves the likes of which no one else in the class has shown he’s capable. Tough defenders such as Eric Gordon and Jerryd Bayless may as well have been cones, and his teammates ballboys, all mere objects for Mayo’s use in a brilliant, chilling display.”
Shouldn’t that brilliant display have been enough to prove the skeptics wrong? I guess not, as Harrington was tempted to do what many draft experts have done with their NBA Mock Drafts this spring – swap Greg Oden for Kevin Durant as their expected top pick in this spring’s draft. All through his high school career Oden was touted as the next Bill Russell or the next Tim Duncan but that all came crashing down this fall when Oden suffered a wrist injury college basketball fans became enamoured with Durant. Because Oden played through a wrist injury and essentially only played half of a freshman season the sceptics were quick to proclaim that he lacked an offensive game and promptly jumped onto Durant’s bandwagon. All it took was a wrist injury for Oden to get passed over for the next big thing in Durant.
Granted, Majo has made some bad decisions this season like bumping a ref and tossing a ball into the crowd following dunk but let’s put his actions in perspective. He didn’t rape someone or commit adultery. He didn’t get arrested by the police. He didn’t disrespect the integrity of the game by attacking his coach or opposing fans. Mayo simply made a mistake by getting too close to a ref and threw a ball into the stands as his way of celebrating his final high school game. I don’t get what the big deal is either of these events or why one bad All-Star game should lower his perceived value by basketball “experts” like Rob Harrington.
How many dumb things did you do when you were a teen? For me the list is too long to write in this article. The fact that Mayo has stood in the glare of the media since his freshman season and he’s only made two minor mistakes is a testament to his maturity despite still being a teenager.
Our society is always looking for more and it’s causing us to not be able to appreciate all that we have right now.
What happened to cause NBA fans to not be able to appreciate Dirk Nowitzki’s MVP season? Granted he had a rough series against Golden State, but the fans and writers that are quick to dismiss his value to the Mavericks franchise come across as uneducated. I will easily admit that Nowitzki had a bad series but if you want to claim that he isn’t a franchise player or a MVP your forgetting the playoffs last season he had 37 points and 15 rebounds in a Game 7 Western Conference final victory over the Spurs and he scored 50 points in Game 5 of the conference finals while out-scoring Phoenix in the fourth quarter.
Losing perspective on players isn’t limited to the NBA as over the past decade college players that have stuck around for their senior season have often seen their stock drop like Jameer Nelson’s in the NBA draft because scouts have a larger body of work to examine, prod and dissect. Far too often scouts and general managers will pass up on a talented senior because they want to take the risk on the potential of a high school senior or a talented college freshman instead.
I’ve become numb to the fact that fans and writers will criticize a pro or college player for a bad game or series, what’s scary in my mind is the fact that high school seniors like Mayo are seeing their marketability and popularity affected after being heralded since they were in grade seven.
If we expect teens like Mayo to always excel and never make mistakes during games then we are expecting too much from them.