Did magazine cover just kill Kansas?
Sports fans worldwide have long subscribed to the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. And in recent times, the magazine has taken a liking to picking out a kid who has yet to play a second, an inning, in college and proclaiming them to be the next transcendent icon.
But the magazine may have just dipped into a whole new level of crazy, and if the jinx is real, well, good luck Andrew Wiggins. And Kansas.
Here's the cover:
That's Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning and Andrew Wiggins.
Since it's college, let's do a little history review before we start passing torches.
• Wilt Chamberlain: Played at Kansas from 1955 to 1958. Because rules at the time did not allow freshmen to play varsity, he did not join the varsity team until his sophomore season. In his first varsity game, he set a school record with 52 points. Over two seasons, he averaged 29.9 points and 14.4 rebounds, was a two-time All-American, and led the Jayhawks to the NCAA title game in his final collegiate game. In that game, he scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a game Kansas lost to North Carolina by one point in triple overtime, a game considered by many as the greatest college basketball game ever played. After skipping his senior season to play with the Harlem Globetrotters, he would go down as one the greatest players in NBA history, putting up one of the most famous stats in sports history:
• Danny Manning: Perhaps the most beloved athlete in Lawrence to this day. Played at Kansas from 1984-1988, passing on the NBA to return for his senior season. In four seasons, he averaged 20.1 points and 8.1 rebounds and was a two-time All-American. In 1988, he put together one of the great individual seasons in his generation, earning national Player of the Year honors, being named Final Four Most Outstanding Player, and doing what Wilt couldn't — going out a national champion. He would be on the bench as an assistant coach for the Jayhawks' 2008 national championship, meaning he was a part of the only two Kansas NCAA champions in the last 61 years.
• Andrew Wiggins: Well, he was really good in high school. In all seriousness, Wiggins is the top-rated recruit in the nation and billed by many as the closest thing to LeBron James since LeBron James. So he's been dealing with lofty expectations for a bit. But hey, he can do this:
But what makes this cover choice a little odd stretches beyond Wiggins' simple lack of experience. Chamberlain was at Kansas for three years and played two. Manning stayed for all four. If you find a pundit who says Wiggins will play more than one season in Lawrence, you've found the only one.
Will Kansas fans and alumni use the cover as a tool in their efforts to convince Wiggins to return for his sophomore season? No doubt. But unless Wiggins helps deliver Kansas a national championship, it will be difficult to imagine Kansas holding him in the same regard as Mario Chalmers and Jeff Withey, let alone The Stilt and the architect of Danny and The Miracles.
At least with the two most famous cover prodigies of recent years — James and Bryce Harper — they were not being compared to icons of a sport-crazed fan base.
In fact, LeBron never even attended college and Harper spent just a year playing junior college ball. But if history holds true, Wiggins can at least bank on some serious money in the near future.