When former first overall pick Andrea Bargnani returns to the Air Canada Centre on Friday night, fans of the Toronto Raptors shouldn’t boo the Italian forward.
There’s a growing belief that when Bargnani steps onto the court in Toronto he’ll receive a reaction somewhere between when Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter returned to face the club that drafted them for the first time.
It won’t be as vicious as Carter’s reaction, because let’s face it, nobody loved Bargnani like they adored Carter. However, it should be louder than when T-Mac returned since McGrady only truly had one great season with the Raptors while fans were forced to endure Bargnani for longer than any fan base should have.
The problem is the anger towards the player is misguided. Fans are justified in being upset with Bargnani’s lack of compete level as a stale donut would easily have been able to play harder defense. However, they shouldn’t be upset with the fact Bargnani never became the player former General Manager Bryan Colangelo tried to sell the fan base he was going to be.
Truth is, his draft year was downright terrible, with arguably the best pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, Rajon Rondo, not being chosen until the 21st overall selection. Some could argue Rudy Gay was the best player from that year’s class, but even he wasn’t selected until the eighth pick, which means six other teams after the Raptors didn’t want him either.
Brandon Roy was a popular choice as well, but people didn’t believe his knees would hold up over time and unfortunately, they’ve been proven right. Chris Bosh desperately wanted Toronto to select his workout buddy from his home state of Texas, LaMarcus Aldridge, but the Raptors feared the two played too similar. A bizarre decision at-best, considering instead of drafting a bigger and stronger version of Bosh, the team elected to draft a softer, weaker, three-point shooting and all-around useless version of Bosh.
Regardless, looking at what players the team could have drafted isn’t the point of this article.
Simply put, the only people that claimed Bargnani was any good was Colangelo and his management team. Then when it was proven Bargnani wasn’t anything more than an above average shooter, Colangelo refused to admit his mistake and continued to force Toronto fans to endure Bargnani’s pathetic play.
Was Bargnani worth the first overall selection in 2006? No. However, Bargnani never claimed he was, only Colangelo did. In fact, the only thing Bargnani ever claimed was that Primo Pasta and Sauce was his pre-game meal, and judging by the way he played, Primo Pasta and Sauce should probably be banned from the team by new General Manager Masai Ujiri.
It’s not fair to boo a player just because he never turned into something he never claimed to be. Yes, his time in Toronto was mind-numbly frustrating, with fans often screaming at the TV wondering how he was still on the court.
However, when Bargnani declared for the 2006 draft, he never asked to be first overall. He never demanded to be a cornerstone piece of a franchise. Fans should know this due to his passive attitude and more importantly his passive defensive game.
Unfortunately, between now and whenever Bargnani retires, he’ll always be booed when he steps onto the court in Toronto. He’ll be booed because he was often out-rebounded by Jose Calderon and every other point guard he played with. He’ll be booed for not being something he never claimed to be. He’ll be booed for never reaching the potential someone else claimed he had. He’ll be booed because he ruined pasta for some people, and he’ll be booed because the ball rack they bring out at half-time always hustled more on defense.
Meanwhile, Colangelo, the person who conned a city into believing in Bargnani, will be nowhere to be found and will never have to endure what Bargnani will unquestionably endure for the remainder of his career.
On the positive side, at least fans will never have to endure those awful pasta commercials ever again.