Hype, expectations, some form of weird hyperbole. Those are all things that can happen when a new, shiny player joins the collegiate sporting ranks. Kansas Jayhawks freshman Andrew Wiggins might happen to encompass more of those things, all at a much higher degree. I mean, Wiggins is entering the realm of college basketball with more things expected out of him than a homeless person hopes will come from a stranger’s kindness.
Wiggins is considered the most-hyped player coming out of high school since LeBron James. There are a few big differences, though. James went straight to the NBA, was considered a generational type player and already had a receding hairline. Wiggins was very highly sought after, but he isn’t considered a generational star as much as he is as being “just” a sure thing. Plus, Wiggins’ hairline is not afraid of his forehead (at least not yet).
There does happen to be a bunch of things in the way before we can crown Wiggins the next greatest thing. Like, you know, helping Kansas win a slew of games, put up a tremendous amount of crazy individual stats and becoming a very likable player. Say what you will about a recruit coming in with a bunch of hype, but if they fail to live up to it, the critics love to come down on that player. Really, it’s a double-edged sword.
Seriously — and this is certainly not a knock on Wiggins — more “top-recruits” miss than hit. If everyone scored when they landed “top-recruit x” then we wouldn’t have as many coaches being fired. We’d also have to find a way for the NBA Draft to have 20 rounds. For real, how many four- and five-star players can there possibly be? If you go to one of the recruiting websites, it looks like hundreds each season.
If it turns out that Wiggins isn’t as good as the hype behind him, folks’ heads will collectively explode. We will call him a bust, a player who tricked us all, etc. Even though with hindsight, it is really the people who evaluated and recruited him who were the busts. Only in sports do we blame the worker for working, maximizing their potential the best they can and maybe never reaching the heights of success that other folks projected for them. But we never, ever blame the folks (coaches, recruiting services, blogs like this one) for telling everyone why the guy is going to be more awesome than one-dollar beers at your local roller derby.
Eh, I digress. That’s almost a completely different issue, although, it does show how hard it will be for Wiggins (or any other top recruit for that matter) to live up to the hype when the people creating it are usually wrong more often than Steve Guttenberg has been at “choosing” film roles post 1987.
Here is what I am trying to say in a roundabout way. Wiggins is going to fail to live up to whatever expectations everyone is putting on him because they are not his expectations. They are ours — folks from the outside looking in. There is a better chance of Christina Ricci finally going on a date with me than there is at any athlete living up to a level of hype that isn’t realistic.
Prime example being James — the guy everyone said had to win a ring to live up to his pre-NBA Draft hype. Then, only after winning the ring, all the people said he had to do was win multiple rings. After that, then the bar was raised to 45,290,345 rings.
The funny thing about hype is there is no limit to how big or insane it can get. And heaven forbid someone actually reaches the expectations we put out for them, we just make the hype and expectations we want from them even bigger and more insane. That’s why it is nearly impossible for Wiggins to live up to the hype — and really, it’s only by default (or, really, our fault).
Wiggins has a long road ahead of him and a world’s worth of expectations on his shoulders. Thankfully for us, his job is to actually help the team win games and not gauge how he’s doing at filling up the fictional hype-meter.