On the one hand, Nassir Little has a point: ESPN recognized the marketability of Duke, with its remarkable freshman class and most of all Zion OMG Williamson, and the Sports Leader has definitely promoted Duke an awful lot.
This has been duly noted on sites like Reddit, where posters have consistently added screen caps from other games where ESPN has promos or discussions centered around Duke.
We can see how it could get irritating.
But on the other hand, ESPN, like everyone else in basketball, understands we’re seeing something special and ESPN is, after all a commercial concern. They have to make money and no offense to Little, but we’ve seen literally thousands of athletes more or less like him. You can just rattle the names off for days: Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Harrison Barnes, De’Andre Hunter, Jaron Blossomgame, Jalen Rose, Sean Elliot, Michael Cooper, Walter Davis, Bobby Jones, Scottie Pippen, Jim McMillen....seriously it could go on for a really long time.
No one has ever seen anyone like Williamson, hence the fascination.
Thing is that Williamson seems to be turning into a figure like Babe Ruth or Bo Jackson, maybe even Paul Bunyan. It’s kind of like Beatlemania except with social media.
If Little blew his shoe out it would have been a blip. Williams does it and Nike’s market cap falls a billion dollars.
NBA players have spent the last several days offering free advice. Columnists all over America have weighed in.
UNC deserves credit for the win, but every so often a transformative figure comes along and catches people’s attention.
In basketball it’s usually been big men. People were talking about Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) in high school. This was well before recruiting became a big deal. You couldn’t miss those guys; they were national celebrities.
The closest we’ve been to that in recent years was the ascent of LeBron James. He was as can’t miss as possible.
But he skipped college so this didn’t happen with him. It surely would have though had he gone to college.
Because of the uniqueness of Williamson and the chemistry the team has shown, Duke will be the focus until they are no longer playing, whenever that ends up being.