|McDermott is one of the most effective scorers in the country, but he's no Larry Legend. (US Presswire)|
Chances are, if you're Caucasian, stand between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-10, can score more than 17 points per game by way of an array of quirky scoring tactics (unorthodox!) and a reliable mid-range jumpshot, you'll inevitably be paid the best and worst compliment you could ask for: someone will compare your game to Larry Bird's. If you happen to play for a mid-major program? All the better, as your chances of having your name invoked alongside Larry Legend's should rise approximately 350 percent.
It's the ultimate sign that you've showed up on the national scene, that you're one of college basketball's easy narratives, the Loveable White Boy We've All Seen Before. This kind of chronicle has occurred so many times before I've long since lost count. Off the top of my head, previous Bird parallels have been drawn to Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, Vermont's Taylor Coppenrath, Oregon's Luke Jackson, Miami University's Wally Szczerbiak, Nevada's Nick Fazekas and Florida's Matt Walsh. There are undoubtedly a cluster of others from the '80s and '90s who escape me right now for the very reason that those men were not, in fact, the next genus of Bird.
(In fact, doesn't it surprise you to some degree how we're always looking for the next Bird even more frequently than the next Jordan?)
I bring this up because college basketball's Best White Player now is Creighton's Doug McDermott, who's averaging more than 21 points and seven boards per. He's destined to be at or near the top of our Player of the Year feature for the rest of 2012-13, and so his fate was fulfilled this week when he got the Bird treatment. I'm pretty sure Phil Martelli isn't the very first to do so, but he's among the most notable.
When describing McDermott, Martelli said, “This kid is Larry Bird. McDermott is Larry Bird. He is this year's Larry Bird. He has all the stuff."
Gah! There it is! "This year's Larry Bird." And what is this "stuff," I gotta ask? Do we mean skill? Because he's definitely got loads of that. Have you picked up on how we tend to float into the nebulous when describing white players' skillsets?
Martelli is speaking out on Dougie Swish because St. Joe's travels to play Creighton on Saturday. Good matchup, by the way. Both teams were picked to win their respective leagues. Could be a beaut.
But let's move on, folks. Coaches and commentators, writers and relics, once and for all, let's put a moratorium on adducing Bird's name and game with most white forwards who can score and have NBA potential.
Larry Bird is an NBA god and practically a college basketball folk legend more than 30 years after taking Indiana State to the '79 title game, perhaps the most important game in the sport's history. His doppelganger isn't coming down the pike; he's so iconic because he can't be duplicated. Let's once and for all stop trying, if only to be fair to the 19- and 20-year-olds who don't go seeking this affection or inherit pressure that comes with the comparisons. After all, haven't we finally given up on looking for the next MJ?