OK, so when you’re paid to have opinions for a living, you’re going to be wrong.
But we still can’t help but marvel at this written by Michael Wilbon for the Washington Post almost two decades ago about a skinny high school kid named , who was in the process of deciding whether to forgo college and entering the NBA draft immediately.
With the flood of early entries that followed — including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard — it’s easy to forget that nobody had done it in 20 years before KG took the plunge. (I feel so old; I vividly remember when this went down, primarily because it was so unusual.)
Which Wilbon argued vociferously against in the months leading up to the draft. Not only was Garnett not ready to play in the NBA immediately, Wilbon — now one of ESPN’s go-to talking heads — wrote he “wasn’t close.” More:
The kid isn’t physically ready to play under the basket in the Big Ten, much less against Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. His skill level isn’t high enough; he isn’t savvy enough.
Of course, not only was KG more than ready to play in the NBA, he quickly became one of the league’s best players, an All-Star at 20 and the MVP at 27. Still a difference maker in Boston, Garnett is a mortal lock to make the Hall of Fame whenever he retires.
Contrast Wilbon’s opinion with this by Clarence Gaines Jr. — son of legendary coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines — for the Chicago Bulls. Having never scouted before, I’m not sure how hard it is to pick out a future Top 20 player. But CGJ certainly nailed it:
From a maturity stand point, I hope he goes to college. But if he decides to enter the draft we are in a position to draft him, I will yell to the rooftops for us to roll the dice take him. In his case, we are rolling loaded dice. I had the opportunity to see Anfernee Hardaway Glenn Robinson before they played collegiate BB, I had similar feeling about their pro potential. Kevin excites me more than both of these players at the same stage. He is a FRANCHISE PLAYER marquis (sic) gate attraction.
There wasn’t anything wrong with Wilbon’s contention that high school kids should get an education before jumping into the pros. For every Garnett there were multiple . But in hindsight, he’d probably like to have picked a different player to make his point.