Last week, UNC and Duke played for the 1,025,003,124 time in history. And for some reason, this particular iteration was as popular as can be, at least for the elite.
Tickets for this game soared up towards $2000. Spike Lee, Obama, and other famous/wealthy people were there to be seen. Why these people never went to a previous chapter of the UNC/Duke saga yet go to this one escapes me. Yes, both teams are in the top 10, but that is always true. Maybe it was for Zion Williamson, the new Duke wunderkind of basketball. But there has been better players for each side of this rivalry.
But I digress……
Anyway, within the first 15 seconds of the game, future 1st round pick (and future NBA bust……just wait on that one) Zion hurt his knee and was out for the game. UNC rolled, despite shooting 2-20 from the 3 line, and won by 18.
Now when I watched this game, I had no sound. I thought for sure the storyline was going to be how at sea Duke looked and how UNC may be that good. Or maybe even how Coach K, even with his wealth of talent, cannot coach up his team when losing one player.
But none of those topics were even mentioned.
All I heard the next day, much to my surprise, is how Zion’s shoe blew out, how Nike failed Zion, Nike stock plummeted, and how maybe Zion should pack it in for the year and save himself for the NBA.
First off, there was a game played. The result should be talked about. That is if you are a sports fan, that’s what you focus on. But as per usual, the media hones in on things that are not about the game and fit some narrative that they find interesting, not necessarily germane to sports. In other words, there are few real sports fans out there, and that includes the media.
Secondly, shoes blow out, especially when you take a bad step in them. This has happened before. Sorry Zion.
Thirdly, Nike stock fell 1%. That is NOT plummeting. In fact, the entire stock market fell .5%. So it is safe to say Nike will survive this.
Finally, all Zion did was lightly sprain his knee, probably be out 2 weeks at most. Why sit now? I mean sit out the season even before the season starts if you care so much about health. And even if he hurts himself again, he will still be picked #1 and has an entire off season to heal. Players play. If he doesn’t want to play and save himself, yes that would be an interesting commentary about how college sports takes advantage of athletes, and to see Duke feel the brunt of this would be awesome. But he should play. He signed up for the season. He has an obligation to his teammates. If it is just about the money, then he should have never played this season for free. But too late now. And I bet you my mortgage that he does. Not a story.
Here is the story; Duke is not as good as we all thought. They were down 27 to Louisville. Sure they won, but great teams don’t go down 27. Duke also lost another game when I wrote this, taking their tally up to 4 losses. A very good team, but not an all-timer like we all thought. Coach K has NOT done a good job with this group. The talent on this team is better than the Michigan Fab Four and the undefeated UK team in 2015. Also remember Duke is playing in a watered-down NCAA, where either your players are talented freshmen or untalented upperclassmen, not like in the 80s or 90s when juniors and seniors were NBA talents.
Duke may win the title, they may even be the best team still, but not an all-timer.