It’s been a week the depths and magnitude of few others for Chicago native and newly anointed New Orleans Hornets savior Anthony Davis, who as the top pick in last week’s NBA Draft all but cemented his hometown’s distinction as the premiere source of talent in all of hoops nation.
“Chicago has always been the basketball capital of the world, Hoop’s Nation,” NBA legend and Association Top 50 all-time mainstay IsiahThomas has assured me on more than once occasion and in no uncertain terms over the course of several prior confabs. “We have a style all of our own, no one attacks the game, hoop or another opponent quite the same way we do.”
One can only imagine how much more resolute, not to mention effusive, Thomas' figures to have grown in his praise over the last several weeks given Davis’ ascension and that of fellow Chi-Town legends Dwyane Wade, Juwan Howard and even Eddy Curry’s in newly minted statuses as NBA champs.
Add to that Derrick Rose’s crowning as the league’s youngest MVP in league history just a few months prior and the current reign of Jabari Parker--- his Simeon Career Academy heir apparent--- as the top-ranked high school baller in all the nation and overall best since LeBron James, and, well, Thomas’ words start to serve as far more than just lip service. Even Parker’s father, Sonny, packs much pedigree, having played several journeymen years in the NBA and rating as a local legend.
“We’re a different breed,” adds Thomas, ticking off the names of Tim Hardaway, Mark Aguirre, Kevin Garnett, Glenn Rivers, Antoine Walker and Terry Cummings as further glaring examples. “Nowhere else in the country do they play the game as hard as we do. We take no prisoners.”
Even given all that distinction, the 6-11, 230 pound Davis stands an even greater anomaly. Scouts herald him as revolutionary in his style, that rare breed capable of dominating a game without so much as touching the rock. And yet, the one-time high school guard stands capable of beating you with his skills as well. Think a young Bill Russell with grit, combined with the polished prowess of a Tim Duncan.
“Davis is that unique player,” said ESPN NBA Draft guru Chad Ford. “He remains an elite athlete who runs the floor like a much smaller player. He also has a terrific motor, a huge wingspan and great quickness… he has the makings of an NBA game changer.”
From his sophomore to senior high school season, Davis grew from 6-1 to 6-10 and his understanding of just how quickly the window can close on all the opportunities afforded a superstar pro athlete seems just as prodigious. Already he’s in negotations with several major brands over endorsement deals and has moved just as quickly in trademarking his “Fear the Brow,” and “Raise the Brow” . monikers
Next up, aiding the city of New Orleans in finally putting aside all its misfortunes and rebuilding itself as one of the league’s fastest rising franchises.
"I just want to get everything out of the way, step on the court and not have to worry about anything else,” said Davis, realizing the key to all lays in just how well he comes to excel at his day gig. "Guys do this for a living and now I've got the opportunity to do it as well. I've got to make sure I'm ready. Al the labor is just starting and I’m ready to work.”
No one much doubts that, given Davis’ rise on the national scene came into being while he attended a school that housed less than 400 students and competed in one of Chicago’s far less competitive leagues. So much greater was the emphasis placed on academics instead of sports at Perspective High, the school didn’t even have a gym or basketball court, forcing Davis and his mates to be bused to other nearby schools all four years just to hold practices.
And still, Anthony Davis found a way to outwork all his peers, landing him at a scholarship to Kentucky where he led the Wildcats to a national title.
“Luckily those days are behind me now and I can be in the gym as much as I need to be,” Davis now says of those formative times. “I’m glad they're over… it’s just about work right now.”
Over indeed, for Anthony Davis now stands as a top NBA draft choice. The face of a franchise. The pride of an entire city.
Glenn Minnis is a veteran sports and culture writer who has contributed to the likes of ESPN, Vibe and the NFL Magazine. He has also been on staff at AOL Sports, the Chicago Tribune and was the founding sports editor for 360HipHop.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @glennnyc.