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Friday, June 21, 2024
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NBA pick passes on

When the news of Yinka Dare's death became public on Jan. 10, most people had two reactions: First, the surprise of hearing of a death at a young age. Second, something along the lines of "God, he was terrible in the NBA."

Dare, a former basketball star down the street at George Washington University, goes down in NBA history as possibly the worst draft pick ever and a cautionary tale against drafting on potential. The mere mention of his name is still enough for New Jersey Nets fans to wince. So how do we balance a respect for the dead with a legacy like Dare's? My colleague Jesse Epstein, a diehard Nets fan, who quipped, "I felt guilty for all the times I'd wished he would die", nicely sums up this conundrum.

Dare was a fan's worst nightmare. The Nets wasted a high draft pick and a lot of money on a guy nobody thought would really become any good. He somehow managed only four assists in his entire four-year NBA career. He finished his career with more turnovers than field goals. Over time, the name Yinka Dare (pronounced dah-RAY, rhymes with "can't play") became synonymous with an absolutely useless player and a terrible draft pick.

Dare took that crown from an undeserving Sam Bowie, who was a fine player in his own right. He just had the misfortune of being drafted ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. Though Bowie made a 10-year career out of his strong pivot play, he was stuck with the label of worst-ever draft choice until that fateful June night in 1994 when the Dare legend was born.

At the very least, Dare was hardly alone on the list of bad draft picks by the Nets. Ed "Cartilage" O'Bannon was picked ahead of Michael Finley and Kurt Thomas. The Nets passed on Tracy McGrady in order to grab Keith Van Horn, possibly the least tough NBA player around.

New Jersey seemed to finally break its bad drafting luck in 2001. After picking problem child Eddie Griffin, the team traded him to Houston for Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins. Ironically, Jefferson and Collins both start for the Nets, while Griffin was cut by the Rockets and now plays off the bench for Jersey.

The Nets are hardly the only team good at picking bad players. Our hometown Wizards' top pick in 2001, Kwame Brown, holds all sorts of records for worst stats by a No. 1 pick.

Brown still has time, though. So does Yao Ming and even Michael Olowokandi. It was once thought that the Philadelphia 76ers made a grave mistake in drafting Shawn Bradley over Penny Hardaway; time has proven these two to be about equal.

Jason Kidd was once thought to be the Sam Bowie of the 1990s, while Grant Hill was to go on to be the new Michael Jordan. Funny how things work out.

In the NBA, the only things that are certain are death, taxes and bad draft picks. Last week, two of those things intersected. In a society that's afraid to say anything bad about the deceased, the new direction of Dare's legacy will be an interesting sociology study. By virtue of his tragic death, is he no longer the poster boy for a poor draft pick? Does he gain esteem that the media and sports fans didn't give him in life?

For just a second, put yourself in the shoes of Dare's family. Imagine that your brother, your husband, your father, was known far and wide as an abject failure. Imagine that all through life, people that meet you want to talk about your relative's shortcomings in his career. As sad as it is to say, the Dare family almost gets a bit of a respite due to the respect given to the deceased.

When sports get put in perspective like this, I tend to think about a quote once said by baseball manager Felipe Alou. When a reporter told Alou that his career record as a manager had recently reached .500, he replied, "That may be true, but I know that I am over .500 as a man."

Dare was a disappointment on the basketball floor, but not in life. As sports fans, what we should gain from this is the realization that an athlete's life is more than just his career, and that despising an athlete is not the same as hating a person you know. At the very least, Jesse, let's learn to wish only an early retirement on future Nets pariahs.

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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