Kansas (Andrew Wiggins) vs. Duke (Jabari Parker)
In an ideal world, both Wiggins and Parker realize their true potential, which leads to All-American nods, All-Star selections, a gold medal game clash in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, maybe a MVP or three, Finals appearances, championship rings and eventually the Hall of Fame.
From the moment Andrew Wiggins reclassified this time last year overtaking Parker’s No. 1 ranking, the seeds for an eventual “rivalry” were planted. Even if the two kids wanted no parts in such — and Parker sure as hell doesn’t — that’s the nature of the beast in sports, in particular basketball where single players often impact the outcome of games, seasons, series and championships. Pitted against each other in this year’s McDonald’s All American Game and Jordan Brand Classic (that also featured Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Tyler Ennis and more), tonight is a stage that actually matters.
The record actually matters.
The game itself actually matters.
The actual performance on both sides of the court actually matters.
Wiggins’ impending games against Oklahoma State and his other “rival” Marcus Smart will actually matter.
To be fair, however, it’s still a college basketball game played on November 12, 2013, when the season itself isn’t scheduled to wrap up until April 7, 2014, inside AT&T Stadium, otherwise known as “Jerry [Jones] World.” And regardless of what happens tonight -—Wiggins doesn’t live up to the hype, Parker outplays Wiggins, Wiggins outplays Parker, both score 30 — the social media-dominated world we live in will overreact. That much is all but confirmed.
The fact the game is played in Chicago’s United Center — the same city Jabari immortalized himself as a living high school legend at Simeon — only provides another wrinkle in an outfit that will, by night’s end, begin to iron itself out. It represents an early homecoming for Jabari, oftentimes more nerve-racking than therapeutic. Meanwhile, an early-season opportunity arrives for Andrew to debunk the “he doesn’t take every game seriously” label that now rivals the praise behind his wellspring of talent and expected No. 1 draft pick mystique.
Similar to the game before it, blue-chip talent is at a premium in the likes of Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook Jr., Wayne Selden Jr., and Perry Ellis. That’s not even mentioning the coaches Bill Self and Mike Krzyzewski, “somewhat” accomplished in their own right. No one man or two men have ever been bigger than the game itself, nor will they ever be. As the great Slim Charles once noted, “The game the same. It just got more fierce.”
They can symbolize a night however. They often do. And Parker and Wiggins will do just that in a few hours. All any hoops fan realistically desires is a good game that’s close at the end, the Canadian actually taking a comb to his hair and if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see this classic Fresh Prince scene recreated.
Hopefully, if we’re blessed enough, it’s the second or third page in a book with countless more left to compose itself.
Oh, and the answer Kenny’s question? “Hell no.”