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Legacies and Brands: Why Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad shouldn’t worry about either yet

Terrence Payne

Sports Editor

So, we haven’t learned anything, have we?

Seriously, in a span of 21 months, have we learned anything?

Almost two years ago, LeBron James announced in front of a live, nationally televised audience that he was “taking his talents to South Beach.” He did this while simultaneously ripping Cleveland’s heart out and showing it to everyone in Ohio.

James has been viewed as one of the most hated athletes since and rightfully so. “The Decision” was one of the most arrogant hour in the history of television. James orchestrated the whole fiasco and not surprisingly, it absolutely backfired. His “brand” (we’ll get to that later) has been smeared. His legacy (we’ll also touch on this later) has been questioned. And every move he’s made since has been dissected to an extreme.

We can all agree that LeBron announcing his decision to a nationally televised audience was a bad idea, so what do we do? We let our youth do the same thing. Exploiting our youth has never gone wrong.

Last night, two of the nation’s best basketball players, Nerlens Noel (Tilton School/Everett, Mass.) and Shabazz Muhammad (Bishop Gorman/Las Vegas, NV) picked the schools they will attend next season in a primetime slot on ESPNU. Muhammad committed to UCLA, while Noel added showmanship by having the Kentucky logo etched in the back of his head.

I understand this is a big deal because both are great players and should be great college players and factors in the NBA someday.

But as of right now, in the grand scheme of things, they are nobodies.

We crown kids so early now, it’s embarrassing and borderline creepy. We treat them like LeBron by giving them a show to themselves. And guess what? They begin to act like superstars.

High schoolers, repeat high school athletes, are now talking about their brands, their images and their legacies.

Legacy?!? That shouldn’t even be in your vocabulary.

Read this closely, read it again if you don’t understand. The term legacy is the most overused word in sports today.

LeBron James doesn’t have a legacy right now. This instant his legacy is non-existent.  He’s 27-years-old (even though his hairline disagrees) and 27-years-olds shouldn’t have legacies.

No, LeBron has a reputation. Right now his reputation is he doesn’t have it in him to win a title. Once again, he’s not even 30, he can rattle off five – not six, not seven – championships and put an end to that question someday. When he retires, whatever titles and awards he has will be his legacy.

Harrison Barnes, just two years ago, sat at his high school in Ames, Iowa, and did the same thing LeBron did.

He mentioned that he will decide on his next school, “the school where he will leave his legacy…”

Um, in two years, what’s your legacy, buddy? Was it not playing to your potential and relying a lot on Kendall Marshall to create shots for you?

It’s crazy to me that Barnes, a sophomore in college, is worried about his “brand.”

Do you think Kobe Bryant is worried about his brand or legacy? No, because he worried about winning five championships and is hell-bent on winning a sixth. Kobe will leave behind a handful of titles and only one (should have been more) MVP award. His reputation is that he’ll do anything to win. And it’s that reputation and that attitude that helped cement his legacy.

Listen, I like Nerlens and Shabazz a lot. I’ve gotten the chance to be around Muhammad, and he is a very intelligent, very thoughtful person. But to give him a red carpet, keys to the car and a throne to sit on is ridiculous.

We’ve seen in the past this is a bad idea. So, why not let history repeat itself?

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