Let’s be honest for a second here. No matter what your parents told you when you were growing up, everybody knows that there’s always a winner and a loser, right? If winning isn’t everything, then why do we keep score? I think Vince Lombardi said something along those lines. No matter the circumstances, whether it’s a rec-league game, the state championship, or an exhibition game meant to highlight the best young talent the game has to offer, someone’s performance makes them stand out – either for good or bad reasons. While none of the players actually “lost” by playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game, some did suffer bad performances throughout the week. I’m not saying they’re not good, they are. But for arguments sake, someone has to lose.
After spending the week in Chicago covering some of the All-American Games festivities, it’s time to announce the winners and losers of the week:
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1. My Stomach – WINNER
Having been in New York City the week before, my expectations for Chicago were probably a little lower than most peoples would be in my situation. How could this compete with the so-called greatest city in America? But man oh man was I wrong! I’ll save you the tourist recap because I don’t even know where to begin. So let’s talk about the food â€” it’s everywhere. Pizza (hands town the best, and no I am not an expert. I rarely even indulge in it, which should say something about me loving it) that makes you salivate as you walk into the restaurant, and then makes you feel like a terrible person afterwards. You know, the way all good meals should make you feel. Louis C.K. said it best (NSFW).
Seriously though, it was food galore, like the Willy Wonka Factory of food options. My stomach has never been as thankful.
2. President Obama – LOSER
Hold on for a second. I’m not going all Fox News on you here. Let me explain: I traveled relatively far from my hotel midday for lunch, and when I left said restaurant, it would have been nearly time to take the shuttle to the game, so I hitched a cab. Time had suddenly turned against me, and it was way to long to walk back! At which point all hell broke lose as I sat in traffic for an extra hour… paying to hear an Earth, Wind, and Fire concert on the radio (ok, maybe not all was lost in this experience then). Once we got over the bridge, what does my new companion Mr. Taxi man say? “Oh, the President must be here!” Mr. POTUS, you couldn’t helicopter to your destination? Or at least forewarn me? If I’m going to have an oldies R&B listening session, let it be on my own time! I’m all for the basketball-loving President of the USA returning to his city, but not at the expense of my already thin wallet.
3, 4, 5, 6. The Top Four Big Men – WINNER
I was expecting at least one of these four players, Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander, Myles Turner, and Karl-Anthony Towns, to put together a stinker in Chicago. How could they all have a good week playing against each other? Somehow, I came out thinking they had all succeeded. Okafor, who’s got all the hype right now as the number one prospect, managed to at least manage the expectations – a win in its own right. He’s incredibly talented, his game is more mature than the average 18 year old, and he struck me as a down to earth kid when we spoke. Do you know how hard it must be to stay grounded when everyone is constantly telling you how good you are? Okafor is as steady as they come, and left Chicago Co-MVP.
Alexander was no slouch, competing hard during the course of the week and playing through an injury to his wrist while showing considerable toughness in the process. He’s a bundle of energy out there, and is borderline too powerful on his dunks. He missed three or four in the game simply because he was trying to break the backboard. I actually wrote in my notes “Alexander is trying to break the backboard.” In the battle for Chicago (both Okafor and Alexander were playing in front of their hometown fans one last time), Alexander still had plenty of supporters in his favor. He’s as strong as they come physically, and if he ever adds a mid-range jumper, look out.
Turner, who had to navigate an endless course of questions about where he’ll take his talents next season, was as professional as they come in the interviews. I felt bad asking him about where he’s headed; I knew everyone else there was starting their interviews the same way: “Hey Myles, have you decided on what school you’re going to attend? No? Do you have a deadline then?” It was annoying for me, so I can only imagine what he’s been going through recently since he’s been dealing with this all year. He put on a show in the game, answering questions about his performance, or lack thereof, during practice all week. He’s got arguably the highest potential in the class, and may very well be a hit-or-miss kind of prospect (a la Anthony Randolph and other multi-talented big men). But he continued to show he can do pretty much anything: grabbing rebounds, hitting jump shots, pestering Okafor for part of the game, and even taking the ball up the court once or twice. Whoever gets Turner is getting one heck of a player.
Having read or skimmed the last few paragraphs, how could there have been a more impressive player? Towns’ statistics weren’t blowing you away after the game (6 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks), but I was enamored with his ability. I dedicated many words to it in a previous article. Towns looks like Andrew Bynum, when he was in shape with the Lakers. He’s 7-0, and 250 pounds. Yet he’s light on his feet, can really shoot the ball from deep, and even handle the rock. Who do you defend him with? Towns’ potential led to a 10-minute conversation between some of the media and scouts on the ride back to the hotel. I kid you not, people were just shaking their heads and smiling while saying, “I don’t know what to say.” One guy asked me where he was ranked (No. 9 on ESPN’s list), and proceeded to say “eight spots to low.” Towns impressed everyone with his play and his maturity in the interviews, and he’s a definite winner.