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The Anthony Davis hype train has officially jumped the rails

Expectations rising to frightening heights

Expectations rising to frightening heights

Bill Russell. Wilt Chamberlain. Tim Duncan. Hakeem Olajuwon. Patrick Ewing. Lew Alcindor. All-time greats. Legends. An exclusive club of hoops-defining big men. Apparently, they already need to  make room for a new member — a 19 year-old kid who’s played one season of collegiate basketball.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, the Anthony Davis hype train is now — officially — a runaway. I’ve watched as it’s gained speed over the past few weeks of this NCAA Tournament, and I can’t say this is an entirely new phenomenon. I remember similar levels of excitement when another Kentucky frosh by the name of Wall was leading fastbreaks at breakneck speed for Calipari’s Cats. But this…this is different. It’s way more insane. I also think it’s borderline irresponsible.

I am not a basketball analyst. Larry Brown, John Calipari, Bobby Knight, Dick Vitale and scores of college hoops beat writers surely know immensely more about talent assessment than this fan. But what am I missing? More to the point, how can you begin to make comparisons between Davis and names like Russell, Kareem, Chamberlain and even Duncan and Ewing? Could Davis leave an equal mark on the NBA? Maybe, although the probability is quite thin. Does he remind me of any of those players as a collegian? Not particularly.

Frankly, I watch Davis play and his physique and game reminds me immediately of one player (and, yes, I know I’m not the first just stating gut initial). One who at 6’11, 235 carries a similar frame and build to Davis. A 1996 Naismith Award winner at UMASS and set the then-record for blocks during his freshman year. Yes, I’m talking about Marcus Camby. Now, here’s where most people will freak. Marcus Camby? Are you kidding me? Davis is going to be way better. He’s only 19. He’s so mature. He’s unselfish. He just wants to win. Et cetera. Et cetera.

The Camby man could

News flash. I’m not comparing Davis to Camby. I’m not comparing him to anybody, because it seems a fairly silly exercise.  I acknowledge that we live in a world of star-gazing, star-power and star-comparing. Davis has clearly been a huge impact player particularly when you consider he’s only a freshman. He alters the game way more than even his stat-stuffing box scores belie. Plus, he seems a pretty damn likable kid too. It makes me want to root for him and appreciate his game-changing ability (on the college level).

However, the degree to which commentators, former coaches and others seem to almost being going out of their way to assess Davis’s potential and link it to the the game’s epic heroes is perplexing. Typically, there are names, regardless of sport, that are nearly untouchable such that journalists wouldn’t dare risk any of their reputation by even mentioning a prospect in the same breath.

What is it that makes them ready to drop Russell and Chamberlain in the same sentence? Is it because big men with these skills are so much  rarer than say a shooting guard? When was the last time you heard anyone compare a freshman college player to Jordan, Bird, Lebron or Kobe? Maybe they have been in recent years, and I’ve been asleep at the wheel? So how is it that Bill, Wilt, Patrick and crew are getting tossed around with Davis with such casualness.

Whatever the reasons, the hype train has long ago left the station, and it’s gaining steam. The only question remaining is whether Davis can live up to anywhere near these these early and lofty expectations. Perhaps an owner who has something to prove will be able to hitch his legacy to a rising star. Among the craziest things I’ve heard is that Davis could take the Bobcats in his hypothetical rookie season to 50 wins (assuming Jordan and Charlotte snatched Davis with the number one pick). If he’s the next Wilt-the-Stilt, I suppose anything is possible.


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