Is how exhaustive time and effort goes into giving people two seconds of amusement?
That was the main question regarding ESPN’s complete NBA player rankings, which were released Monday starting at the bottom. There at No. 500, to Twitter’s delight, was Sixers forward Royce White, just below former Celtics center Fab Melo, sitting pretty at No. 499.
The presence of White, a 2012 first-round draft pick who has yet to play in an NBA game due to his struggles with an anxiety disorder, is either mildly entertaining or marginally offensive, depending on one’s point of view. Melo’s ranking as the second-worst in the game was a bit of a gut punch to the Green Teamers who thought Melo was the next Robert Parish. The likes of Jordan Henriquez, Miroslav Raduljica and Tim Ohlbrecht all get to look down on Melo now, should any of them ever get on the court in an actual NBA game.
After chuckling quietly at White’s placement, though, most readers surely came to the same astonishing conclusion: An army of hoops experts expended time and energy to ranking 500 individual players.
That’s good work if you can get it, but, gosh, why?
Don’t get us wrong. We write our own share of inane stories on a weekly — daily? hourly? quarter-hourly? — basis. Research shows that Internet readers want videos of people falling off bikes and streakers getting tackled, so that’s what the Internet gets.
But it takes all of two minutes to drum up a story about Allen Iverson paying a ball boy $2,000 to buy him beer. Presumably, the 215 (mostly excellent) experts on ESPN’s panel spent a little more time than that deciding whether Doron Lamb should be ahead of or below Phil Pressey at No. 439. Granted, the really hard work probably came in the upper echelon. Then everyone can cry and wail over Chris Paul being ranked No. 2 ahead of Kevin Durant, or some such thing.
To be sure, ESPN isn’t the only outlet obsessed with ranking things. This isn’t a personal attack on the Worldwide Leader. The Associated Press ranks football teams. Sports Illustrated did its own NBA player rankings. Numerous sites order every NFL team in weekly power rankings. Analysts love to say who’s the best of the best, and fans love seeing such things so they can decided who they disagree with and who they assume, therefore, is an idiot.
Still, the AP cuts its list at 25. SI limited its rankings to 100 players. Even in this post-expansion era, there are still only 32 NFL clubs to rank. Those tasks are a little less daunting than combing through every player, including several who won’t even be on training camp rosters come Oct. 1, when the payoff is the epiphany that White isn’t all that useful as a basketball player. Given 15 seconds and a Post-It note, we could have imparted the same information.
This isn’t really meant to be read as a criticism, and don’t think the irony is lost that we’ve wasted time writing about something to wonder whether that something was a waste of time. It’s mostly just awe-inspiring. If the point is to “embrace debate,” that probably could have been accomplished while cutting off the last 250 or so spots on the list.
Except, Shelvin Mack totally deserves to be higher than No. 431. Everybody knows that.