Redefining a 'superstar'

   Brace Hemmelgarn, USAT

 Brace Hemmelgarn, USAT

A Superstar, when it comes to the field of athletics, is an individual who has been basked in a light of glory and awe for the masses to gaze upon. Their status is to bring much success to their franchise, the city of that franchise, and the fans of said franchise. They are the ones who are heralded and praised and compared to for future generations so that there can one day be a “next …” to compare the likes of our past’s great warriors, but when the lights aren’t too hot, and people aren’t really singing your praises, but you still end up having individual & team success, then at what point do you leap into Superstardom?

That’s been a question surrounding the current status of a one DeMar DeRozan, 4-Time NBA All Star, 3-Time NBA Player of the Month, and a member of the 2016-17 All-NBA 3rd Team. To call him an anomaly only scratches the surface of words associated with this player over the past few years. His name has slowly worked its way into everyday households, but he’s not quite there yet. 

One of the bonus songs from good kid, m.A.A.dcity is aptly called Black Boy Fly, in which tells the tale of two prominent Black men from Compton, from Kendrick’s point of view. One of those two men is Arron Afflalo (the other is The Game, if you cared to know, but it’s not important in this context). Obviously we can’t tell the future and know who’s going to blow up, get popular, and also make it to the NBA. It was Arron in Kendrick’s time, but who would have known that only a couple years later, it would be another Compton native that would be ‘flying’ across the league in such a way that the league didn’t know how to react to it?

Well, again, this is the case for DeMar DeRozan, because not only was he a shaky pick all the way back in 2009, but there wasn’t anything about him that was supposed to deem him as this next great player for any franchise let alone the lowly Toronto Raptors, whose most popular players in their franchise were Vince Carter, T-Mac (briefly), and Chris Bosh (okay fine, I’ll add Andrea Bargnani somewhere – kidding). Needless to say, the aforementioned 3 ended up finding their success away from the Raptors (VC & T-Mac remain ringless, while Bosh picked up a couple in Miami).

Stars never stayed in Toronto, and there are oh so many reasons as to why that happened, but what happened in 2014 after some promise shown by a seemingly fluke team was strung together, a star stayed.

That star was Kyle Lowry. Effectively, that started the domino effect that propelled not only the Raptors to winning consistently, and developing a kindred match made in basketball backcourt heaven with DeMar DeRozan, it was then DeMar who took it upon himself to stay with the team and finish what he started, proclaiming that he had the Raptors on his back to lead them to the promise land in the near to distance future. Either way, he showed his loyalty to the Raptors. The Raptors is a franchise that isn’t owed anything. We don’t have anything to stand for, historically, and for a team that represents a whole country, you’d think that there’d be some pressure there, but really there’s a small contingency of basketball fans who are just happy to have a damn team up here.

There have been ‘franchise players’ who have also been deemed superstars that haven’t accumulated prominent success, and most of the time it’s about being in the right situation at the right time. If we look at some franchises in the East currently there’s a lot of growth and rebuilding. Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, Kristaps Porzingis in New York, Kemba Walker in Charlotte, John Wall in Washington, and Kyrie Irving in Boston. Now, basketball pundits will look at those names, some have, and all give them a Superstar tag because they’re names you know, and because of their individual talent, they’re going to make that jump to making their teams the best there is – not necessarily.

The only common denominator in all of those names is that they’re all younger than DeMar DeRozan, but I’m sure they’d want to take the playoff experiences and consistency of winning the same route (more or less) than DeMar has. The Wizards haven’t advanced out of the 2nd round in John Wall’s career, Kyrie didn’t touch the playoffs until LeBron went back to Cleveland (no fault of his own, just laying it out there – also got a ring and 3 straight Finals appearances), Kristaps plays for the Knicks, and the Bucks are just starting to come into their own but can’t evade the injury bug to other prominent players.

So why can’t DeMar be a superstar by his own measure based on what he’s accomplished? Having your own shoe, having a lot of commercials, and being that personality in which audiences can grow to love, that also constitutes what makes a superstar. But if that’s just not your personality (see: Kawhi Leonard) then I don’t feel as though that should work against you. I’m not one who’s big on advanced stats and all that jazz, but 23.7 PPG, 33% 3PG (career best), 5.2 AST (career best), and 13 games of scoring 30+ including the franchise high in points scored in a game (52), while simultaneously helping get the Raptors to the current 1-seed sitting at 41-16, sitting 2 games ahead of the Celtics, I think it’s time to create some dialogue about who the superstars are in our league.

Yes, being in a Canadian market is harder to get the eyes of those who matter, but as the Raptors get talked about more in American media (winning helps, I guess), then the play gets recognized. People have already acknowledged the ‘master of the midrange’ being the make-up of his game, but as he elevates and excels, there’s a lot more to be appreciated about DeMar, and just what he brings to the table from what’s an outsider’s perspective. The post-season is what really matters, and in that category, you can highlight all of the lowlights that have been presented and in theory could debunk this whole article, but there’s still time. There’s always time. But from witnessing the progress that DeMar has always built for himself, constantly getting better and better each season, the numbers don’t lie, the results don’t either, and I think he’s due to spread his wings so he can be ‘another black boy to fly’. Cheers to Comp10. Enjoy All Star Weekend. 

That’s My Word & It STiXX