The current college basketball season is still young, but it has already given us a debate topic. Who is the better freshman phenom, Andrew Wiggins of Kansas or Jabari Parker of Duke?
It might be fun for hoops fans to argue about who’s better, and it certainly seems to be a popular topic on sports websites. But there’s a bigger picture story here and it involves hype. Hype can be one of the most destructive forces acting upon young athletes.
I’m not saying that both Parker and Wiggins won’t eventually play in the NBA (the odds are pretty good that both will). It’s just that the hype machine has ruined players before. (Remember Renardo Sidney? I didn’t think so.) What it does to some athletes is create a false sense of security, and convince them that they’ve already reached a level of ability that puts them above their competitors. The sad truth is that the day a basketball player (or someone in any other sport) suddenly decides that he or she no longer needs to improve or work on his/her game, is the day that that competitors pass them by.
It’s unfortunate that the national media has to hash out the deficiencies and strengths of Wiggins and Parker. Both are only 18 years old, and don’t deserve being compared to each other during their first year of college basketball. But that’s the way the sports hype machine works.
Keep in mind that hard work always pays off. LeBron James may have been anointed as the second coming of Michael Jordan while he was in high school. But “King James” wouldn’t have any NBA championship rings without the play of teammate Dwyane Wade, a moderately recruited high school player that Marquette University took a chance on. Wade worked hard at the college level and it paid off big time.