http://espn.go.com/mens-college-bas...is-franchise-changer-just-hyped-espn-magazineThis story appears in the June 25 Debate issue of ESPN The Magazine. Subscribe today!
"I'll tell you exactly what Anthony Davis is -- he's a young Bill Russell ... And Russell was by far, and will always be, the most valuable player ever in sport." -- Bob Knight, former college coach
FOUR MINUTES into this year's NCAA championship game against Kansas, with his Kentucky Wildcats up 9-7, Anthony Davis did what he does best -- and what he might do better than any man alive. Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor received an inbounds pass and slalomed down the court on a one-man fast break. Davis, trailing the action, shadowed Taylor from a 10-foot remove like a shark stalking a darter fish. When Taylor reached the lane, oblivious to the looming threat from the right, he juked a nearby defender and lofted a lefthand runner.
It's not exactly a law of physics that a defender cannot block a layup when he's farther from the basket than the shooter is, but it's still a strong argument for the existence of the DVR. That's especially true when that defender owns a 7'4" wingspan and a jaw-dropping vertical leap. In one sweeping motion, Davis elevated from the middle of the lane -- a giraffe on a pogo stick, skinny legs and all -- and swatted the ball directly to Kentucky guard Doron Lamb. For a split second, even Lamb appeared stunned, unsure how the ball had found its way into his hands. But when Lamb turned and sprinted downcourt on the way to a layup, the genius of the moment was clear: Davis had not just blocked a shot. He had coerced his opponent into helping him deliver an outlet pass.
"When I was growing up, I saw Oscar get 56 in the Garden. I've watched Wilt forever. I saw Russell in the Holiday Festival when I was a young kid. Davis is in that class ... When he enters the draft, the team that gets him is gonna win over 50 games." -- Larry Brown, former NBA and current SMU coach
"There's one player in this draft who changes the course of a franchise, and that's Anthony Davis." -- Jon Barry, ESPN analyst
FEW THINGS IN LIFE ARE GURANTEED. One of those things is this: Davis, the rangy Kentucky big man with a knack for thwarting field goal attempts, will be the first pick in the 2012 NBA draft. With apologies to the producers of the upcoming draft telecast, any effort to manufacture drama regarding this is futile. Davis has had the top spot locked down since last fall. And the moment the New Orleans Hornets' pingpong ball popped into place, his fate was sealed: Whether he wanted to or not, Davis would be taking his talents to the French Quarter.