Let’s play make-believe for a second.
What if we could round up members of the men’s basketball team and drop them off at one of those eroding, back-alley playground courts? No charity stripe or three-point line to speak of, no refs or motion offenses; just two rusted rims separated by a worn-out stretch of cracked concrete.
Let’s say we could roll a ball out to center court and watch them duke it out one-on-one like heavyweight prizefighters. Game to 21, call your own fouls, make it take it — the works.
Now, who would win?
The reason this question should resonate in your skulls is because the LeBron vs. Kobe debate has escalated to such titanic proportions that the NBA might have to hire Michael Buffer to get everybody ready to rumble. The two rivals are one more backward glance away from fisticuffs.
The articles written about who is the better player could pack the Smithsonian to the gills. Analysts spit verbal venom back and forth on the subject, usually ending in red faces and frustration. And just a week or so ago, Rick Reilly tried to squash the whole ordeal with a column, but the results, of course, were inconclusive.
So now I pose the question to you: one rim, 21 points and just two players. Who comes out as the undisputed champ of Golden Eagles hoops?
The first tricky part is weeding out the unqualified and narrowing it down to just the two most skilled isolation players on the team.
By rules instated by the street ball governing body, you can’t have a post player in the one-on-one gauntlet. It goes against everything the competition stands for: determining who has the most skills, not the most size. Therefore, center Chris Otule and power forward Davante Gardner are out of the equation.
The other main criterion is ball-handling ability. You can’t be a good isolation player if you dribble like Captain Hook. So let’s go ahead and cross the athletic forwards off the list: Joe Fulce, Jamil Wilson, Erik Williams, Jae Crowder and Jamail Jones. And why don’t we leave guard Rob Frozena’s name on the cutting room floor while we’re at it.
You also have to be composed and cold-blooded like a Florida gator, just in case a fade-away with no ticks left on the clock is the only way to win. Obviously, Mr. Clutch himself — forward Jimmy Butler — is a lock for the first spot.
And as talented as many of the freshmen are, they don’t have the game experience to handle the high-stakes world of one-on-one street ball.
So we have Butler — the savvy, scrappy team leader with liquid nitrogen running through his veins — in one corner. By process of elimination, junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom is in the other. The team’s best two players, locked in a battle royal to the death. OK, maybe not to the death. But close.
Hit the lights and roll the cameras. Game on.
The match-up basically comes down to this: Can DJO’s machine-like scoring overcome the gorilla-glue defense of Butler? DJO can certainly score with the best of them, with a clear edge in perimeter shooting and slashing ability. The man fills the basket up like he’s going on a picnic.
But what Butler lacks in pure talent, he more than makes up for in heart and toughness. With his long, 6-foot-7-inch frame and inherent ability to outlast even the Energizer Bunny, Butler might be too big of a load for DJO to carry for a full 21 points.
On a court or in an arena, skill usually prevails. In an alley, on a playground, indomitable will trumps just about everything. Butler has it in spades.
Official prediction: DJO starts strong but fades late, succumbing to Butler’s hustle and aggressiveness. Butler TKOs the talented guard, 21-18.
If Marquette actually sanctioned this thing, Blue and Gold Nation’s collective head would explode. A historic battle between two of the team’s most decorated gladiators? It would be one for the ages.
Are you not entertained?