Above The Rim, The Fresh Prince And The 2013 Champions Classic


College basketball is back, and it couldn't have chosen a better slate of games to introduce itself to America.

"Do you honestly want to do the show on Tuesday?"

That was the question Kenny posed to me Sunday evening during our traditional pre-Cowboys game conversation. Neither of us truly had a desire to. Not because we were tired of doing the show or because we were low on topics or because we knew we were running the risk of being pissed off about the outcome of Sunday night's game.

We've both been anticipating tonight's college basketball menu for months now. Last season left much to be desired. Sure, conference championships and March Madness season provided the expected jolt in excitement. Yet, for the most part, the season as a whole was boring. The fact it took No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett over 20 quarters to earn his first professional basket this season was all the validation needed (even if it is completely useless and unfair).

Tonight's Champions Classic taking place in the United Center will not shed light on the team with the inside track to cutting down the nets in April. It's simply four teams — all ranked in the top five in the country — with marquee personalities bursting from the seams in absolutely the most delectable smorgasbord of narratives.

Plus, when we really break it all down, as sports fans we're due for an entertaining spectacle. **cranes neck at Sunday and Monday night's football match-ups** 


Michigan State vs. Kentucky aka Bombers vs. Birdmen 2.0

Ponder this for a second. The game with the top two teams in America is the undercard fight. The same exact game featuring a duo of the game's most electrifying coaches and upwards of perhaps eight to 10 first-round draft picks. And if any additional excitement was needed, I've taken the liberty to convince myself (and hopefully two or three others) this is Bombers vs. Birdmen 2.0 — a fitting tribute to the coming-of-age, 1994 classic Above The Rim.

An extremely loose comparison at best, it does help provide another prism to view an already heavyweight slug-fest under a new light. Don't believe me? Here it goes:

John Calipari as "Birdie" (Tupac Shakur) -- The Birdmen were the controversial program in New York, often seen as the "coolest" team led by the most charismatic and influential voice on the streets. Plus, can't we imagine Calipari using the same recruiting tactics as Pac did — flashy lights, clubs, unnamed "gifts," possibly some superb marijuana and the finest co-eds the University of Kentucky has to offer? Better yet, view this scene via the Above The Rim dialogue with Kyle Lee Watson serving as the Harrison twins. And ... action!

Calipari guides Aaron and Andrew Harrison through The Wildcat Club dapping up students, professors and administrators as he smokes his Cuban cigar. He's the man at Kentucky. This is the culture. The culture he helps foster. Suddenly, two incredibly curvaceous co-eds — ironically twins — appear in UK blue freakum dresses, catching the eyes of Aaron and Andrew.

Calipari: Stick with me, homeboys. You gon' like it up here.

Aaron sees the young lady and responds with ...

Aaron: Damn, I'd like to get with some of that.

Calipari: Call her over here.

Andrew: **laughs**

Calipari: Go 'head.

The co-eds walk over and proceed to give the Harrison twins the greatest make-out session they've had since a 2005 game of "Hide & Go Get It" went exactly as planned. Calipari's done it again. This is how he recruits — with sex, drugs and "the finer things in life." 'Murica!

Calipari: Alright, alright. Y'all gonna get my club shut down. Let's go get a drink. You got plenty of time for that later ... Take it easy on them, baby! It's their first time.

Tom Izzo as "Rollins" -- The long-term coach who (as far as we know) does everything by the book and has formed a legendary career doing so. The city loves him, as do his players.

Julius Randle as "Motaw" (Wood Harris) -- Just as Motaw was Birdie's marquee player/alpha dog/right-hand man, so is Randle to Calipari. And to momentarily break away from the ATR vibe we're all obviously neck-deep in right now because this is fun (right? ... RIGHT?!), tonight is Julius' first chance to prove to America he — and not the other two names to be mentioned later — is the country's most prized diaper dandy.

Through two games, he's averaging 22.5 points and 14.5 rebounds (admittedly against UNC-Asheville and Northern Kentucky), prompting CBSSports.com to already began singing his praises with its "Freshman of the Week" distinction. If he sprints out against Michigan State with another 20-10 game, expect those Chris Webber/Zach Randolph comparisons scouts and sites have been pinning on him to increase tenfold. And we'll all be ready to gouge our eyes out by Thanksgiving.

Gary Harris as "Kyle Lee Watson" (Duane Martin) -- Unfortunately, at publishing time, Gary's middle name could not be discovered. Nevertheless, Harris is a primary option of Izzo's and the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year after after averaging 12.9 points a game. This season, completely healthy, it's easy to understand why Spartan fans are thinking "national title or bust." Plus, having turned down Calipari (like Watson to Birdie) and completely buying in to Izzo's system — the same way Watson eventually did for Rollins — Izzo said it best, "... I'd match him up with anybody on a lot of teams." "Anybody," in this case, most likely being Aaron Harrison.

The comparisons could keep going (but obviously fall drastically short of any actual violence). The most discernible being Mateen Cleaves using a lone mythical game of eligibility and helping ignite Michigan State to a victory a la Leon ("Shep") for the Spartans/Bombers.

Anywho, excited for the "appetizer" game yet?


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."

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