As a lifelong fan of Philadelphia sports teams, I’ve seen more than my share of unpopular draft choices. Of course, the one everyone remembers is a small segment of the fan base booing the selection of Donovan McNabb with the second pick in 1999. In recent years, the narrative has shifted to make it seem as if the fans hated McNabb personally or that the booing had a racial undertone, but that’s simply not the case. The fans – including me – desired Ricky Williams and believed he would change the direction of the franchise. McNabb, for all of his flaws, took the Eagles to 5 NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. He and Andy Reid turned the franchise around. The fans – we – were wrong.
I was reminded of the McNabb choice in June when the proud but lowly New York Knicks chose Kirstaps Porziņģis with the fourth pick:
Look at those reactions. Porziņģis is 7’3, white, skinny, and from Latvia, so everyone immediately assumed he would be another project. A stiff. A European Shawn Bradley.
Here’s the problem: none of them had done their homework. It’s not like Phil Jackson was reaching with the pick. The kid could play. The Lakers nearly chose him with the second pick. He wowed everyone in his pre-draft workout:
This is why listening to fans is asinine. Most have no idea what they’re talking about, nor should they. They don’t have access to millions of dollars of tools and research and scouts that are available to team executives. They have their own careers on which they should be focusing and the only thing they know about most incoming players is what they’ve seen during March Madness or what Skip Bayless yells at them.
It’s still very early and Knicks fans have a tendency to make huge judgments based on a small sample size (remember Linsanity?). He’s going to struggle. He’s going to get pushed around. But he’s only 20. He’s going to get better. And maybe, one day, he’ll earn the Dirk Nowitzki comparison.
Until then, just enjoy moments like this.
I was living near Philadelphia in 1993 when the 76ers drafted Shawn Bradley. I’ve seen Shawn Bradley. I know Shawn Bradley. We knew it was an awful choice. Kristaps Porziņģis is no Shawn Bradley.
Tweet your apologies to @PhilJackson11.
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.