Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yeah, it's Still the Mecca

During the great free agent diaspora of 2010, there was much schadenfreude out in the provinces when LeBron James did not decide to sign with the New York Knicks. Whether fueled by envy, disdain, regret or one of the myriad emotions that the words "New York City" elicit in those from the other 49, false prophets decided that the formation of the 2010-2011 Miami Heat was a referendum on the status that NYC held around the league.

If you believe that then I've got a bridge to sell you.

Ever since original Garden impresario Ned Irish began hosting college hoops doubleheaders at the old Garden uptown, basketball players have known that the game's biggest stage was in the Big Apple. LBJ may have taken his talents to South Beach but Madison Square Garden is still the Mecca. That's why the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft John Wall laced up a pair of special edition sneakers last night when he made his Garden debut.

The North Carolinian who arrived in the NBA by way of Kentucky is going to accrue a lot of firsts this season with the Washington Wizards. He's got the speed and power to put up some eye-popping numbers, coming within one steal of his first triple double in just his third game. A week from tonight he'll play against future rival Derrick Rose for the first time, and at the end of the month he'll travel down to Miami to play his first meaningful game against LBJ and Dwyane Wade. Certainly it'll be a season full of first-ever moments that Wall treasures and that his fans do as well. But no one is going to talk about his "American Airlines Arena debut" unless he goes ahead and gets that triple double or breaks some sort of record. And even then, it'd be known as the Great Wall of Triple Double Game or something. I'm also guessing that Reebok ain't going to be rolling out a 13-of-a-kind sneaker to mark the occasion of his maiden trip to Oklahoma City or Milwaukee.

During the long summer of 2010 (when, by the by, one of the game's top talents in Amar'e Stoudemire did emphatically choose the Big Apple) it was explained to me by those kind enough to diagram the irrelevance of my favorite team that MSG had more meaning to old timers than anyone young and spry. But there isn't anyone younger or sprier in the game right now than Wall, and it sure seems that he's gotten the message passed down from his forefathers (and endorsers) like religion. The Garden is still the Mecca. Wall wore the shoes to prove it.

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