You sit on a throne of lies, Sports Illustrated.
Big news came out earlier this week for UK recruit Julius Randle, who wrestled Rivals’ overall number one 2013 ranking from Jabari Parker. While it’s probably exciting for Randle, it’s not necessarily surprising to hoops fans. Anybody who watched the Elite 24 dunk contest can tell that this kid’s legit.
However, it is a bit curious that the player Sports Illustrated dubbed as “The Best High School Player Since LeBron James” is now not even the best high school player in his own class. What happened to cause the next best thing to become the 2013 hoops salutatorian? Did he get worse? Or were the expectations just too ridiculously high? Most probable answer: SI jumped the shark by trying to sensationalize their stories, and Parker is the one paying the price.
Sports Illustrated, by making a sensational claim like that, isn’t trying to help Jabari Parker. The story itself was fine; it spent more time talking about Parker’s character and religious background than basketball skills. But the headline used to sell the issue wasn’t just misleading, it was fairly damning. It brought immediate contradiction from plenty of folks close to the college basketball scene, who immediately recognized how inflated the claim was.
CBS put out this list of post-LeBron high school phenoms, headlined by Greg Oden, shortly after the SI article. Oden has the top spot, so where is Jabari? Parker is 6th, after Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, and Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins, remember, is one year younger than Parker, but still ahead of him on CBS’s list. With such disparate rankings for Parker, either SI or CBS was a little off their rocker. But which one? Since CBS wasn’t trying to increase subscriptions with their claim, I’m going with SI. With Rival’s new rankings, that decision looks more and more sound.
Calling high schoolers “the best ______ since ______” sets an unfair standard on the younger players. With such high expectations, there’s really nowhere to go but down. Do we have to say that “Jabari Parker is the best since so-and-so,” or can we just say that “Jabari Parker is the best Jabari Parker?” Even though he slipped to the number two spot, there’s zero doubt that he’s a phenomenal basketball talent that has a great future in basketball, and will be in the NBA in just a few short years. Should he be starting his senior year as the kid who is already not living up to expectations? It has nothing to do with Parker, but it has everything to do with the unfair expectations that Sports Illustrated thrust on him to sell magazines.
And now, as a result of the extravagant hoopla, followed by Julius Randle’s ascent to the top spot, Parker’s perceived as a disappointment, and Sports Illustrated looks dumb. Who wins? Well, besides Julius Randle.