200 Wingmen Needed
What do the "Ice Man" from Top Gun, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls and the Fresh Prince have in common? Think about it for a second and it'll be easy. OK, we'll tell you. They each had a wingman.
In Top Gun, "The Iceman" (played by Val Kilmer), was the No. 1 fighter pilot in the business. He had a wingman. In fact, he had a pretty good one. "Maverick" (Tom Cruise), proved to be one of the best wing men in the history of movies. Heck, Maverick might have been a wingman, but he was so cool that he had his own wingman. C'mon, you remember "Goose" don't you?
Michael Jordan? Well, his famous wingman was Scottie Pippen. Together, the due did things on the court hat defined our generation. Even the greatest player that ever lived had a sidekick.
Finally, before there was Will Smith, movie star, rap star and husband of Jada Pinkett (maybe his top achievement to date), there was DJ Jazzy Jeff AND the Fresh Prince. I know you remember the hits "Parents Just Don't Understand" and "Summertime?" While Jazzy Jeff's star faded over time, originally, he was a pretty solid wingman.
Ok, enough of the comparisons. My point is this: LeBron James has no wingman in the Class of 2003. Not yet at least.
So far, we've heard Brandon Bass and Ndudi Ebi talk about being the No. 2 players in the class. No. 2? Yep, these kids know full well that the only guy getting courted by the shoe companies with 20+ million dollar deals is James. They figure – and correctly – they got no shot at that so why not be No. 2? Not bad reasoning, but …
It's July 13 and James is still without a wingman.
Ebi has gotten close in his quest to sit in the second chair. In our mind, for the entire spring and pre-July portion of the summer, he was the most dominant player. He rose to the occasion more than once, posted triple-doubles and walked the walk. You just knew that in early July he'd take that No. 2 spot and make it his. He talked about it prior to Nike Camp.
From an outside perspective, I wouldn't say the thought of being No. 2 has consumed Ebi, but it's definitely on his mind. He wanted Kris Humphries and Luol Deng in his bracket at the Nike Camp. Instead of extending the olive branch to his fellow Duke recruits, Ebi wanted to use the competition to take his place next to James.
So, how did he do? Well, he did just fine at Nike Camp, but not nearly the kind of performance that left you thinking he was indisputably the best wingman in the Class of 2003. In fact, if Nike taught us something, it would be that the gap, if there even is one, between Ebi and Deng or Deng and Ebi, is a narrow one.
But, we're onto the Peach Jam and Ebi will be on a team good enough to win the title. This kid is a big time competitor and his quest to be No. 2 isn't remotely over. Winning the Peach Jam and dominating opponents would help.
While we are on the subject of Deng, he was seen at the adidas ABCD Camp. We are quite sure that he's less consumed with the prospects of being the No. 2 man in the class; surely his competitive fires have to be stoked. After all, you could make the case that he was at ABCD's all-star game sizing up the competition. He probably also got a good look LeBron James' luxury box seat, while he sat Indian Style on the floor underneath the basket.
But, Deng's quest for No. 2 probably will have to resume in the fall. From what we know, his summer schedule is light and therefore his chance to make an impact in July might be tough.
Ah, Brandon Bass. Great competitor, super athlete and a likely impact forward prospect in college. He's all those things, but he's not a No. 2 man; he's more likely fighting for a Top 10 position. For him to rise to those heights, it would take a dominating performance in Las Vegas and a Big Time title for the New Orleans Jazz. That's going to be a tall order.
For my money, Shannon Brown is the best shooting guard in the class. How do I know? Gut feeling and the fact that in the past I've seen the displays he can put on. Conceivably, Brown could be No. 2 but not yet. In fairness, he's been pretty good this spring and summer but we've seen Shannon enough to know he's got another level to his game.
How about Charlie Villanueva? Man, he was just named the MVP of the ABCD All-Star game. Surely he could be No. 2 in a bit of an upset couldn't he? Yes, but it would mean a deep run and a likely repeat title for the Long Island Panthers in Las Vegas.
Need a few more contestants for the No. 2 slot? Leon Powe you say? Nah, he's banged up and won't be playing for a few more months. Kendrick Perkins? Good call, but it's going to be tough for him to makeup ground with a less-than-aggressive summer schedule.
The point of all this talk is simple: there remains a chance for a very good player to step up and be the No. 2 player in the country, or in our terms, the No. 1 wingman in America. To do that, one player is going to have to 1) get after it al the time and 2) play with some bravado. The kind of bravado "Maverick" finally showed "Iceman" at the end of Top Gun.
"Maverick, you could be my wingman any day," the Iceman told Maverick. "Bullshit, you could be mine," Maverick fired back.
Is there a "Maverick" out there in the Class of 2003?