Bow to the Brow
Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Henry Clay and Dakota Meyer. Those names make the short list of heroes at the top of mind when you mention mythic Kentucky men. True heroes, all with major contributions to both the Commonwealth and the nation.
So how did a gangly, 19-year-old from Chicago manage to wedge his unibrowed mug onto the Mt. Rushmore of the Bluegrass State? Maybe “hero” is too heavy a mantle to place on Anthony Davis, but ask any sports fan from Mayfield to Pikeville and you are sure to hear an earful about what this young man means to the Big Blue Nation.
Here’s what we know, without my blue-blooded hyperbole, he has been named the 2012 National Player of the Year by various organizations, earning the Oscar Robertson Trophy, the Adolph Rupp Trophy, the Associated Press Player of the Year, Naismith Award, Sporting News Player of the Year and John R. Wooden Award. He was the Southeastern Conference’s player, freshman and defensive player of the year. With all of the great players that have come and gone, all the tradition, the Issels, Givens, Macys, Bowies, Chapmans, Mashburns, Bledsoes, Walls and Pattersons that have found their places in the lore of Kentucky basketball, along with many more, not one has had the accolades that Davis has received showered upon them. We’ve seen history unfold right in front of our eyes from this unassuming, unselfish superstar in the making. Before I just gloss over the Naismith award in this gaggle of atta-boys it’s worth noting He was Kentucky’s first Naismith winner and the first from the SEC in 42 years, the last was probably the greatest player ever to play college ball in the South, Pistol Pete Maravich. Like I said, history. Unique
Maybe even more historic than the list of awards Davis enjoyed is the fact that the most dominating force on the floor for Coach John Calipari’s Wildcats is the fourth leading shot taker. His points per game average is modest on first glance—14.4– while his shooting percentage is jarring—64%. Unselfish, I might argue, to a fault, but this has shown that a team of blue chip freshman can play together at a high level without succumbing to the immature mindset of “me over team” which might have plagued Cal’s boys from the past two seasons chock full of signature dances and on court antics that made for great television and fan high-fives but left points on the floor in big games.
Davis managed to not lead in scoring or by mastering the moonwalk (not one point in the first half against Kansas), but lead instead by owning the floor defensively while scoring just when he needed to. Oh, and that damned defense he plays. He’s 6’10” and with his much publicized wingspan of 7’3” he is a tower in the lane. But the game is full of big ol’ boys with big ol’ long arms but young master Davis has that certain something, call it timing, call it instinct, just don’t call it a fluke because when you average five blocks a game and roll into the NCAA finals with 180 to your name, it’s safe to say it’s a habit, and a bad habit for your competition. Even more important than those blocks are the shots he alters just by existing under the basket. Players leave their feet in the lane and instead of focusing on the rim get caught up wondering where in the Hell A.D. is. And if and when he gets to the ball, he doesn’t slap it six rows deep in the stands, he taps it to himself or a teammate and off goes the break. Unique.
I’ll admit at the beginning of the season he wasn’t my “favorite” Cat. I have always gravitated as a fan to the more workhorse power forward types so I was ready for Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Darius Miller to garner much of my praise when it came to drunken team praddle. It probably didn’t help that upon first glance Davis shocked me with his appearance. Tall, yes, arms longer than most, yes, thick from foot to waist and of course, the brow. Such an easy target, a big overgrown kid with a hirsute issue resting just Cincinnati of his Newport eyes. My knee jerk reaction on first glance, not any different than yours I’m sure. A giggle, a snort, a putdown. But you know how it goes, we can make fun of our own family, but nobody else better try. As each consecutive opponent began to make cracks about his looks, gussying up poster boards and SharpieTMing up their foreheads to get at him, I began to realize that his massive, unending eyebrow was what made him even more of an alien on the court. While the blue watchers whispered “why doesn’t he just pluck or wax?” Davis just seemed to bask in the fact that foes and fans alike were semi-obsessed with something that had nothing to do with basketball. A lesser teenager could really be damaged by the attention paid to what many had categorized as “weird” or “ugly.” But whatever self-esteem issues caused by the banter, he must’ve decided he would take out on any ball that entered his peripheral vision. Mature, mannered and capable of making unkempt eyebrows all the rage in a society fixated on over-preening and appearance. Sure, it’s just a little fan based trend all for fun, but it’s amazing how this fella’s looks have grown on me. It’s safe to say now, you wouldn’t want him to look any other way, his looks just fit him. I’m talking hoops not looks I guess, but you get my point. Unique.
So yeah, this kid has put himself into the conversation as the greatest Wildcat ever. In one year, even if we only have him for one. I heard a well-respected talking suit say that Anthony Davis was like a 19-year-old Tim Duncan, the now Hall-of-Fame Spur from Georgia Tech, with the added caveat…Davis is more developed than Duncan was at that age. Big words to live up to, who knows what kind of pro Anthony Davis will be, but I do know wherever he ends up he will pack along a gaggle of UK fans who will follow his progression as a player. Again, unique. We love college ball, that’s how we do, but Davis has made exceptions reality around here
Here’s to one more hero, this one in shorts. I won’t forget this run and who led it and it’s rare when someone leaves such an impression on a high pressure, unflappable fan base as this one. So it’s appropriate to say, “thanks, I have and will always, bow to your brow, young man,” you are worthy. Now go get ‘em, unique up on ‘em even.
This article also appears on page 4 of the April 5 print edition of Ace.
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