Never played in a college championship atmosphere, didn’t seem to hurt him in the pros.
As someone who has written his fair share of idiotic articles and posts, I have become pretty good at also recognizing other writers ridiculous articles too. But I have to say that over my 3 1/2 years at KSR, the article posted by Mike Decourcy this weekend about the difference between NBA players out of high school compared to NBA players out of college has to win the gold medal. His article is based on the premise that if Lebron had went to college, he would have handled the NBA Finals better. If you want to read the entire article, you can click here. But, I will give you some of the “highlights” and then my response. And be warned, there will be some ranting.
First, Decourcy attempts to explain that Lebron couldn’t handle the pressure:
You’re seeing now how James could be better–have seen it in the fourth quarter of five consecutive NBA Finals games. For the first time in his basketball career, James is facing genuine championship pressure, and he is reacting as though it is foreign to him.
WHAT???? LEBRON HAS ALREADY BEEN IN THE FINALS!! Decourcy mentions this later on, but blows past that fact like it isn’t important. You can’t say for the first time in his career he is facing pressure, and then later admit it’s not the first time. Nonetheless, do I need to list some of the college players with tons of NBA rings who never experienced college championship pressure, which I would assume means the Final Four to Decourcy: Tim Duncan (4 rings), Shaq (4 rings), Robert Horry (7 rings), Kevin Mchale (4 rings). Should I continue? Oh, let’s not forget Scottie Pippen, who not only never played in a Final Four, but never played in the NCAA Tournament. I think he won a few rings and turned out to be a pretty good player. On the other side of the coin, it seemed like Kobe Bryant didn’t need championship experience to win a NBA ring in his 4th year and 1st time in the Finals.
Then, Decourcy attempts to show that NBA legends of the past used their college experience to excel in the NBA:
Chamberlain, Russell, Bird, Jordan, Johnson, Robertson, Baylor, West, Jabbar, Walton, Thomas–every one of them played in the Final Four. Isiah and Michael and Magic won; Larry and Oscar and Wilt lost. They all felt the experience of playing on that grand stage, with such extraordinary rewards and consequences. One can argue this was coincidental, but the experience is nearly universal for the game’s greats. It was part of what formed them as players.
Sigh. It almost makes me angry that this guy is so obviously ignoring the truth and expects the reader to be stupid enough not to notice. Every single player that Decourcy lists played in college in the 1980’s or sooner. You know, the time when players didn’t jump to the NBA out of high school. Do you really think that Chamberlain or Abdul Jabbar or Jordan would have played college if they existed in the 1990’s or 2000’s? You really think a 7’2” high school legend wouldn’t have jumped straight to the NBA, Mike? It is so convienient to use the guys he used as PROOF that college makes these great players. OK, what about Charles Barkley? Karl Malone? Reggie Miller? Dominique Wilkins? They were amazing college players too. Funny, none of them have rings. Maybe if they had jumped sooner, gotten on different teams, they would have some rings.
And then, in the short paragraph that fully through me over the edge, Decourcy decides to pick and choose whichever players match his argument:
Howard, McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, Amare Stoudemire–none has won a title, not to mention the likes of Eddy Curry, Jonathan Bender, Gerald Green, Al Harrington, Kwame Brown. If James and the Heat lose this series it would make champions of Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson, but in complementary and not central roles.
I love how Decourcy picks Curry, Bender, Green, Harrington, and Brown, but doesn’t mention Bryant and Garnett. Then he throws a shot at Howard, McGrady, O’Neal, and Stoudemire. Those players are NBA SUPERSTARS!!! They are not the reason their teams have not won NBA titles. The reason is their teammates. Their teammates and teams sucked! To argue those guys, who are multi-millionaires and wildly successful in the NBA, made the wrong decision is so smug and pretentious about college basketball it makes Bob Knight blush. Dwight Howard took a bunch of nobodies to the NBA Finals 3 years ago, in much of the same way that Lebron took the Cavs, full of mediocre NBA players to the Finals.
Now, let me give you the names of some college players who were drafted in TOP 5 OF THE NBA DRAFT since Garnett came out in 1995 through 2007: Marcus Camby, Keith Van Horn, Mike Bibby, Raef Lafrentz, Elton Brand, Mike Miller, Jason Richardson, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Drew Gooden, Carmelo Anthony, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Marvin Williams, Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams, Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jeff Green.
What do all those players have in common? THEY ALL PLAYED IN THE FINAL FOUR. Every one of those players was a Top 5 NBA draft pick, has been in the league at least 4 years and has “championship college experience”, and yet not a single one holds an NBA ring. Why didn’t you mention these guys Mike? You gave us a total of 4 high school players that were busts on the NBA level. Using your same parameters, I gave you 22 players who have your vaunted “college experience” and still remain title-less.
I don’t know why Decourcy’s article bothered me. I think it’s because it is an opinion piece with misleading stats, something that has become a plague in the real journalism world. Here on a blog, we can almost get away with stuff like that. For a real journalist to put out this biased crap just irritates me. I think it also bugs me that Mike loves college basketball so much, and has such a bias as to its advantages, that he selectively chooses the worst case scenario players to argue his case that high school players struggle to succeed, when the actual facts show many more college stars who failed in the NBA and many high school players who hold titles.