The crowd at Boston’s TD Garden dedicated chants of “Overrated!” to Atlanta Hawks star guard Trae Young. Late in Game 2 of Atlanta’s first-round playoff series against the Celtics, the Hawks were trailing him by double digits and on the road to another loss in the series.
It was a far cry from just two years ago when Young was an up-and-coming NBA darling who unexpectedly led the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals after the team missed the postseason for the third straight year. This time, Young gave the Celtics a fit — averaging 29.2 points and 10.2 assists over the series — but Boston threw the Hawks out of the playoffs in six games.
Fresh out of his fifth season, Young faces the toughest existential challenge of any playoff round: the narrative. It once made him a star. You can also remove the distinction.
“I understand there’s always fiction in the story. That’s where he should be. X, Y, Z,” Hawks general manager Landry Fields said before Game 4 against Boston. said in an interview. “And I understand it from a broader perspective. But inside of us, we see Trey, who is human. Trey, man. % better, 2% better? So the expectations are really high.”
In basketball, where individual players have more impact on the game than in any other team sport, as stars take hold, they become lightning rods, and playoff failures escalate. Each year, the Narrative adjusts the star player pecking order based on an amorphous combination of factors beyond the player’s control, such as stats, team success, and injuries. Narrative setters (loosely defined as league observers such as news media, fans, players, coaches, and executives) shape perceptions of a player’s evolution from rising star to star in anticipation.
Players like Young, 24, and Jaylen Brown, 26, of Boston — a Top 5 draft pick and two-time All-Star — are going through this transition, as many other top-level players expect. . But others, like Nets forward Michal Bridges, 26, were unexpectedly forced into perverts.
“Consistency, hard work, and confidence put you in that category,” said former NBA All-Star turned podcast host Gilbert Arenas. “Now what’s ultimately happening is the outside influence of ‘He needs to win the championship.’ He needs to do this. But reality speaks otherwise. I If your team isn’t a championship team, that goal is unrealistic, so as a player, you don’t really put those pressures on you.”
Loud criticism often follows when a player fails. on his TV panel on ESPN. on Reddit. on Twitter. in the living room. at the bar. Through arena heckles and “overrated” chants. On podcasts like those hosted by Arenas.
By his mid-20s, Arenas, a second-round pick in 2001, had gone from nowhere to make three All-NBA teams and three All-Star teams, making him one of the league’s most exciting young players. . But injuries haunted him for the rest of his career, and his decision to jokingly carry a gun into the Wizards’ locker room damaged his reputation. Subdued, Narrative switched to questions about his maturity and commitment to the game.
ESPN analyst and former coach Jeff Van Gundy said criticism and expectations usually run high when a player signs a big contract or retreats after a successful playoff. added that he was judged on his attitude towards coaches, teammates and referees.
Young’s name surfaced trade rumors On the eve of the playoffs, even though he’s in the first year of his biggest contract extension.Young said TNT interview He “cannot control all external noise”.
“I can only control what I can control. That’s what I do on this court and for my teammates.”
He’s the third permanent head coach in the past three seasons, and while his regular-season offensive stats are impressive (26.2 points and 10.2 assists per game), teams often use him on defense. He was not named to the All-Star team this year.
Of course, Young isn’t the only star with an ever-changing perception. Some players have led young teams to play-in tournaments, like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Some, like Dallas’ Luka Doncic, missed the playoffs a year after reaching the Western Conference Finals.
Gilgeous-Alexander, Doncic, and Young are all the same age, but Doncic and Young receive far more criticism despite having better resumes. If that sounds illogical, welcome to sports fandom, says Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, who hosts Showtime’s podcast.
“Here’s what comes with this,” Pierce said. “Men are paid millions of dollars so they can have an opinion.”
In the 2000s, Pierce emerged as one of the best young players in the NBA and was named a 10-time All-Star, but some said he was overrated due to his low number of playoff appearances. In 2008, he silenced most critics when he helped lead the Celtics to a championship alongside Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
“Most players who reach star status We’ll be up in the league,” Pierce said. “They were the All-Americans at McDonald’s. They were the top players in high school. So you expect them to be in that position. was”
Nets guard Bridges stepped into the limelight after Phoenix traded him to the Nets in February as part of a deal for Kevin Durant. He was a reliable starter in Phoenix, but in Brooklyn, his fifth-year guard was forced into the role of the No. 1 option. He averaged 26.1 points in his 27 games with the Nets and remained one of the league’s best defensive guards.
However, the Nets quickly fell into a 2-0 series hole in their first-round playoff matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. In an interview before Game 3, Bridges said he couldn’t care what an outsider said. “You can’t control what they feel and think about all of you,” Bridges said. “The only thing you can control is how hard you work and what you do. Personally, I know I work hard.”
Bridges played well in the series, but the Nets as a whole struggled to generate offense and defenders keyed in on Bridges. The Sixers swept the Nets, with their final win coming to Brooklyn. Bridges then told reporters he needed to get better and promised the team he would. he said.
The Celtics star’s disappointment came last year when his team lost to Golden State in the NBA Finals. His career-best points and rebounds this season have made him a strong contender to make a first All-NBA team.He has always been seen as a dynamic winger, and the Celtics have scored his 7 I haven’t missed the playoffs once in my 12-year career. The Celtics are now the odds-on favorites for his NBA Finals appearance from the East, and Brown has been their best player at times, especially since Milwaukee lost in the first round.
“Early in my career, I was a guy trying to get fame in the playoffs, trying to get notoriety,” Brown said.
he did it But that means it’s no longer enough for him to simply be dynamic. He will have to carry the franchise to the All-Stars alongside his four-time guard Jayson Tatum.
“Part of his promotion is that he’s really talented,” Celtics president Brad Stevens said. “Part of that is that he’s got a big hunger. The department is what he works for, whether he succeeds or gets into trouble.” So you are responsible for doing it all. ”
Players often say that they feel no external pressure to live up to the expectations of outsiders. But there is peer pressure.
“We all want to be the greatest NBA players of all time,” said former NBA forward Darius Miles. “We all want to be in the Hall of Fame. We all want to be All-Stars. Enough pressure.”
The Clippers drafted Miles No. 3 overall in 2000. After 15 picks, they also got Quentin Richardson. Together, they made a previously adrift franchise exciting and culturally relevant. Decades later, two of his closest friends, like Arenas and Pierce, are his narrative setters as podcast co-hosts themselves.
“I think going to the Clippers, the worst team in the NBA, was wanting to be accepted by the rest of the NBA,” he said. I want to be accepted by other players to show that I am a good enough player.”
Pierce said social media has added another dimension to how stars are perceived.
“I feel like social media has taken NBA stardom and taken a lot of the competitive edge out of the game,” Pierce said. Because I worry.Before, it was just to compete.It was about wanting to win the championship.Now everyone is a business.”
But social media can also provide a much-needed visible boost when young stars have their best moments. In Game 5 against the Celtics, Young tallied his 38 points and he had 13 assists, extending him one more game in the series.Sixers Center Joel Embiid tweeted, “This is a good hoop!!!” added the hashtag #IceTrae for Young’s nickname. I was able to catch a glimpse of the play that made Young popular. The jersey is a top sellerI was asked to appear as a guest. At 2021 WWE Events.
According to Van Gundy, rising stars always have their ups and downs as they grow.
“If your expectations never dip into individual or team success, then yes, it’s a criterion that is always ripe for negatives,” he said. If you’re expecting them to play, they’re playing with gratitude, genuine joy, and putting the team first.