Don’t Believe the Hype

By Marcus Shockley

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) raises his hands after San Antonio draws a foul from the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first half of their NBA basketball game in the Target Center in Minneapolis, January 27, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

    

Hyping players has become an industry unto itself, and it goes beyond mixtapes and ESPN highlight clips. Whenever someone releases player rankings, there are arguments over which player should be rated higher than another, and while some of the arguments might be valid, usually it’s meaningless.

Often coaches will take it personally when their own player is ranked lower than another, and I’ve heard some coaches disparage another player and I know the root of it isn’t based on objectivity but on personal bias. This isn’t true of all coaches, but it definitely happens a lot.

There’s also the grassroots world where some ‘coaches’ will try and hype their players because if people think they have the top players, they’ll get the shoe sponsorships and other trappings that come along with it. Of course, there are many AAU and high school coaches who work with their players and actively try to help them land college scholarships. That’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about the guys who only promote players that they see as an ‘investment’.

The problem for the players is that hype ultimately means nothing. It doesn’t matter who the #1 junior or #1 senior is in high school. It’s a nice accolade but a player’s high school ranking is erased the moment he steps off of the floor of his last high school game or AAU game. That’s when hype no longer matters and players have to be able to prove they can actually play. Ask anyone in grassroots basketball who the #1 player in the country is and you’ll get different answers. How many #1 players are there, anyway?

But once players get to a high enough level, they have to be able to do more than just be more athletic than everyone else. There will come a day where fundamentals and understanding how to play will matter. It’s like the 6’5 post player who dominates at the high school level, but would struggle at the college level when he has to play other post player who are 6’8 or 6’10.

Here’s what players need to know: there are different meanings behind a player evaluation, and you should consider the source. That’s not just a lesson for basketball, it’s a lesson for life. Let’s say that we have a player who is a 6’3 shooting guard and is a high school freshman. He’s evaluated as the #1 high school freshman in the country. Consider that an AAU coach might say that about their player because they want people to think they have the next Dwight Howard (not all AAU coaches are like this). A parent might say that because they really believe it, or because they also want their child to be the next Lebron James (not all parents are like this, either).

A media outlet or recruiting guru might say this because they want subscribers/page views, which means money. How many mixtapes have you seen where the title says a player has ‘crazy bounce’ or ‘goes OFF!!!’…these are just hype machine tools. Thinking back over the past thirty years, I can name only a handful of players who actually had so much bounce that they made people gasp. You can dunk? Great. Can you go left? Can you stop your man from getting off a shot? Can you break the press with your dribble? Where’s that video?

Does it matter that Chris Paul wasn’t the #1 recruit coming out of high school? Blake Griffin – not #1. Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, not #1.

#1 high school recruit in 1999? Donnell Harvey. In 2001? Eddy Curry. 2005? Josh McRoberts. In 2006 Kevin Durant was considered the #2 player in his class behind Greg Oden. Yeah, there are guys who rank #1 and become great pros (2004 – Dwight Howard), but that’s the whole point. You have to look for those guys. If a high school ranking at the end of your senior year is not a guarantee of All-Star, HOF success, how accurate do you really think being the #1 high school freshman is? And middle school rankings – forget it. I won’t even look at those and you shouldn’t, either. How much will that awesome mix of you in high school matter when nobody can remember if you played in the NBA?

Forget the rankings. As I always say, have fun, but stay grounded. Focus on being the best basketball player and student of the game you can be, and get some honest input from a good coach on what you need to work on to become better. If Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash still have things they are working on getting better at, after playing in the league for years and winning like crazy, it’s a pretty safe bet that no matter what level you are at, you can get better at something.

Oh, and Chris Paul was ranked #6 as a high school senior, behind Kendrick Perkins, Ndudi Edi and Shannon Brown. But the #1 player that year was pretty decent. He plays in Miami now but he used to play for Cleveland.

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