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Great White Hope Nonsense

Great White Hope nonsense: Doug McDermott hurt by racist Larry Bird hype as NCAA tourney heats up

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Doug McDermott crowd
Doug McDermott is more than the latest Great White Hope. Photo by Greg Nelson/Getty Images
Isaiah Austin Baylor
Now Doug McDermott and Creighton's dream season faces off against the length of Baylor's deep frontline.\ Collegeinsider.com
Scott Drew Baylor
Baylor coach Scott Drew is gunning for another long NCAA Tournament run. Collegeinsider.com
Doug McDermott crowd
Isaiah Austin Baylor
Scott Drew Baylor
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

SAN ANTONIO — Doug McDermott, Creighton University's scoring wizard, is compared to Larry Bird because . . . well, because he's white.

Oh, Sports Illustrated will claim it made McDermott replicate the Larry Bird cheerleader cover simply because he's the nation's leading scorer on a small team. Considering Creighton plays in the Big East — a far cry from the reality for Bird's Indiana State — it's a forced rationalization without legs though.

No, McDermott is compared to Bird because of his skin color. He's been shoehorned into the Great White Hope role, one held by players such as J.J. Reddick, Adam Morrison and Christian Laettner over the years. It's an offensive designation, a clearly racist one that everyone should be long past in 2014. And no pretending it's not there by coming up with absurd reasons to compare McDermott to Bird does not qualify as enlightened progress.

This campaign is hurting McDermott even as it falsely promotes him.

Doug McDermott is not as big as Bird. He doesn't have the shooting range of Larry Bird. He's not close to as skilled of a passer as Bird. And he's certainly no Larry Legend level trash talker. McDermott's a polite coach's son who grow up in a life of upper middle class privilege, not someone who endured a hardscrabble upbringing that include his dad's suicide by shotgun like Bird.

 McDermott's best skill? Finding the holes in a defense. He's not particularly fast. But he's always in motion. 

McDermott is no sure NBA talent who has NBA general managers salivating like Bird was at Indiana State. He's no Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker certain Top 5 NBA Draft pick. McDermott will be lucky to go in the very bottom of the lottery.

The dumb Larry Bird comparisons end up highlighting what Doug McDermott can never be. Instead, we should be celebrating what he is.

That's an excellent college basketball player who has the chance to live a driveway dream. If McDermott helps a limited Creighton team beat a talent-packed Baylor one in the higher seeded Bluejays' second NCAA Tournament game Sunday night, he'll have one of those great March moments.

And a scorer's chance at getting to the Final Four in Arlington.

McDermott would be a huge story in Jerry World. He brings star power, even if he'll never be anything close to an NBA star. He's a fascinating player to watch because his entire team's offense depends on him.

In the first full round of the NCAA Tournament, McDermott keeps San Antonio at rapt attention, twisting and turning his way to his 13th 30-point game of the season. It wasn't even the best performance at the AT&T Center on day one. Providence point guard Bryce Cotton's 36-point, eight-assist, five-rebound line in a two-point loss to North Carolina was much more impressive.

But McDermott's play had to be the most unforced 30-point game you'll ever see.

"Doug lets the game come to him," his coach dad Greg McDermott says. "He'll go through a five to six minute stretch where he'll get up eight shots.

"Then, he'll have another stretch of five to six minutes where he won't take a shot."

McBuckets' Big Baylor Challenge

Any stretch where McDermott stops shooting will be welcomed by Baylor. If Dougie McBuckets doesn't score another 30 points (at least), Baylor will almost assuredly find itself in the Sweet 16.

McDermott isn't Larry Bird great at a lot of things. But he's good at most things that involve putting the ball in the basket.

 The dumb Larry Bird comparisons end up highlighting what Doug McDermott can never be. Instead, we should be celebrating what he is. 

"Normally people are more limited, but he's so good at every area on the court," Baylor coach Scott Drew says. "He's great from the midrange. He's good from the post. He's good from the perimeter."

McDermott's best skill? Finding the holes in a defense. He's not particularly fast. But he's always in motion.

McDermott describes himself as "old school." He's a player who analytics obsessed NBA general managers like the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey — who only loves layups and threes — would struggle with.

Yet McDermott manages to make those so-called inefficient midrange shots very efficient. This is a guy with a career 55 percent field goal percentage.

"I just try to stick to the fundamentals because I'm not as athletic as some of the guys I'm going against," McDermott says.

That's not Larry Bird. Bird was much more athletic than his skin color gave him credit for — especially pre-back injuries.

There is no way for Doug McDermott to measure up. And he shouldn't be asked to try. He's no Great White Hope. He's just Doug McDermott.

And that's plenty compelling enough.

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