With MJ as his model, Barnes clearly didn’t want to be merely a basketball player plus a businessman; he wants to be a business, man. Despite being conducted by a Carolina grad, that Atlantic feature did Barnes no favors. Someone who we knew virtually nothing about – by design – appeared privately to have been putting the horse way ahead of the cart: How was he supposed to become an industry unto himself before he’d ever accomplished anything even close to that substantive? This preposterous notion only became magnified when Barnes shot 32 percent in the NCAA Tournament, including 8-for-30 in two games without Marshall.
As such, Barnes has become the most overanalyzed and polarizing player this side of Carmelo Anthony. All his talk of brands has come back to haunt him, while his game and mentality are being picked apart. It has become fashionable to mock Barnes, and likewise to defend him contrarian-style, and neither stance really hits the mark. Barnes brought a lot of this on himself, but boiled down, he’s still just a 19-year-old kid with an overinflated sense of self-worth. It’s hardly a crime.
Make no mistake, on the surface it seems Barnes should have simplified his thought process and gone pro after his freshman year. He finished last season strong, it was a weak draft with the lockout looming and he likely would have been a top-5 pick.
But for all the talk of how much he hurt his stock in the Tournament, if he leaves now, Barnes will still be a lottery pick, most likely ending up in the top 10. It’s clear that Barnes isn’t quite the elite player we all thought he was out of high school, but he has the tools to be a good jump shooter, the desire to improve and a killer instinct begging to be drawn out. Having seen him play in high school, he’s fluid when he’s not thinking so damn much. He’s been compared to Sean Elliott, in game if not in fortitude, and that would be far from the end of the world.
Whether this spring or next, Harrison Barnes is still going to be an NBA player, and he’s still going to be set for life. With some guaranteed money and financial acumen, he can probably start his own business at some point. And with a little perspective, perhaps the reality check of not bringing his loftiest teenage dreams to fruition will work out for the best.
After all, Michael Jordan is wildly rich, but he’s clearly more brand than man at this point. Maybe this splash of cold water is the start of Barnes doing things the other way around. And I kid about his life being a Drake song, but maybe he really should take a cue: Until you find yourself, it’s impossible to lose you.
Has your opinion of Barnes the player changed in the past year?
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