If you’re bored at work and have the time to read a lot of words, the fine people over at SB Nation have a great article on “LeBron James, Kentucky and the AAU Revolution.” The author, Jonathan Tjarks, writes about LeBron’s come up through the AAU ranks and how Calipari brings in the best AAU talent and teaches them to play as a team, rather than as the individual stars they were throughout high school. That philosophy hasn’t always worked out, but it’s obviously successful at Kentucky.
The AAU game, rather than driving elite players apart, has been steadily bringing them closer together. When Kentucky played Baylor in the Elite Eight, where they faced Perry Jones III (No. 9 in the Class of 2009) and Quincy Miller (No. 7 in the Class of 2010), it was as much a rivalry for the players as when they faced Louisville. They had played against Miller and Jones a lot more in the past than Kyle Kuric, and they’ll play against them a lot more in the future.
Their mindset is quite different from the first generation of post-Jordan players, who viewed individual stardom as the key to crossover appeal: Jason Kidd, Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn didn’t last two seasons in Dallas. Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury didn’t last in Minnesota, Penny Hardaway and Shaq couldn’t make it work in Orlando.
Yet as it turns out, fans aren’t that interested in stars of mediocre teams. Playing with other top players doesn’t hurt your Q rating, it maximizes it. The high concentration of talent on Kentucky didn’t turn fans off, it just made the challenge of trying to defeat them all the more exciting.
If loading up on stars worked for Kentucky, why does everyone scrutinize the Miami Heat for taking the same approach?
Just make sure you come back here when you’re done. We’ll miss you.