After watching the two “best players” in the country play last night (Kansas v. Duke) in Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, I came to a couple of conclusions: 1) Parker is head and shoulders better than Andrew Wiggins as a basketball player even though Kansas came away with the win; and 2) There was a time when most basketball players looked like both of them at the Collegiate NCAA Division-I level. Prior to the Duke-Kansas game, the now defeated #1 Kentucky with their 5-Freshman starters (who could not compete with the Fab 5) played against and lost to #2 Michigan State. Michigan State has better guard play, but Kentucky has terrible guard play. The star to watch in that game was Julius Randle. These guys are good, but I have to imagine that there are some other guys out there that have more potential, and more game. Basketball was a mean sport, just watch the Fab 5 documentary or Hoop Dreams. Now, bball is a cushy ass sport where all the kids have the coolest apparel and everything is done for them.
Additionally, guard play is lacking in college basketball. It probably has more to do with the hype machine than the talent existing, which is why mid-majors are dominating the NCAA tournament these days. But the lackluster guard-play stems from the fact that players lack the concept of playing basketball a certain type of way. Now, these kids are very athletic and come with all the requisite skills, if not more skills than many of their predecessors, but they just don’t have the same approach to the game, in a package that made American basketball so competitive.
Basketball is no longer a playground game. It’s no longer a fight to the top sport. Too many players are ushered to the front door. It’s no longer an art. It’s no longer in the hands of the inner city kid who infuses his life-style struggles into the game. These players are no longer getting the grit necessary to compete in a tremendous fashion. They are no longer getting the swagger that birthed as a result of having to play a certain style of basketball on the playground or in the rec centers. The reason why?? Black families have been displaced into un-concentrated areas, which has had an effect on the talent pool. For example, Washington, D.C has a plethora of charter schools all across the area, which diffuses a concentration of basketball and other talent. Kids aren’t seeing the best of the best in their own schools. Not to mention the fact that black people are no longer the majority in Washington, D.C.; thus, basketball is no longer the gritty DC city game it was in the 80s and 90s, when black people comprised most of the population in DC. The 80s and 90s are the years in which the current college stars were in diapers. They didn’t get to see streetball at it’s rawest.
Look to Brooklyn, NY for the effect of gentrification, and you will see that talent is not what it used to be. Plus, there is such an attack on athletics being a means to express one’s self passionately because of the fear that it’s alluring to have young black men think it is a way out of poverty. But kids are made known too soon of the odds being greatly against them, deterring them from trying. So inner city kids don’t play. Instead, black children are looking to computers, tv, and rapping as better options, all while keeping them from competing on the basketball courts and other sports.
Sports in general may be a financial bubble that bursts, which will definitely change the future landscape of talent. But, hopefully people will play just to play, as opposed to hoping they can make a lucrative career out of it. Kids will start playing against each other for their reputations as opposed to playing for their trainers and coaches in hopes that they can be the next great talent.