Jimmer worship is sweeping the country. Should you join the cult?
Last week our record improved to 17-21 with Blake Griffin winning the slam dunk contest, dunking over a car he would never drive. This week, the focus is on college basketball with the seventh-ranked Jimmers—er, BYU Cougars—traveling to southern California to take on the sixth-ranked San Diego State Aztecs.
I’m not sure how I feel about this whole Jimmer Fredette thing. And I think that’s my point. The Jimmer phenomenon has grown into something much more than the man at its center. It’s an inversion of logic that’s hard not to get caught up in. But instead, watching it from afar is to marvel at the near-impossibility of stopping something once it catches public momentum. It’s disgusting and amazing, all at once. Two feelings I’m not sure I know how to reconcile.
Jimmer Fredette is a great basketball player—maybe even the best amateur player in the country. Whether his game translates to the next level doesn’t matter right now. He’s great in college. And he’s a college player. For now, he’s just great at what he does.
He’s pee-your-pants frightening with the ball in his hands. He sort of unthreateningly jaunts around the court and then BAM! Three points. He pops up in spots he shouldn’t and flicks a double-jumping jump shot that always seems to go in. As Tommy Craggs wrote last month:
There are guys like LeBron and Jordan and Wilt who find new vectors and blow the game wide open. And there are guys like Fredette and Curry and Jackson who solve the game as it is, who don’t invent new angles so much as master the ones already there, and with a touch of that old carnival-midway spirit. You worship the former. You fall in love with the latter.
He’s turned a noun into a verb—or rather, he’s donated his name to a different part of speech. He’s made strong men remove their crowns, placing them upon his head. He’s inspired incestuous quasi-rap songs. His inner-circle has taken on his name. And more than anything, he’s elicited genuine hatred from his opponents and created vehement critics of his same cloth—who are then vehemently berated by his zealots. If that’s not worship, then nothing is.
Yet, he’s still just a 22-year-old kid (born today, actually) from Glenn Falls, New York, playing basketball for a school in Utah. The simplest circumstances create something too complex to understand.
I just can’t bring myself to join the Jimmer movement. Watch in awe? Sure. But to give in would be to risk getting caught up in something no one has any control over. I’ll pass.
San Diego State is 27-1. Their only loss came to the jump shot of Jimmer in Provo, last month. San Diego State should be a bigger story, but they’ve been both raised up and chopped down by Jimmer and the Jimmerettes. They’re pulled into the spotlight when they play Jimmer and Co., but then their credentials are questioned and brushed aside when they lose.
Before Steve Fisher took over the program 12 years ago, they had losing seasons in 13 out of 14 years. Then they lost 23 games, winning five, in Fisher’s first season. But he turned it around eventually. In 2002, he brought the Aztecs to the NCAA tournament, breaking a 17-year drought, and then brought them back again in 2006. The program is still yet to win an NCAA tournament game, but—barring any epic upset or NCAA violations—they should break that duck in March.
The team is comprised of random transfers, lightly recruited chip-on-the-shoulder types, and one bonafide NBA talent who no one else wanted. Oh, and they also have the only player to ever wear long sleeves under his jersey, which is bafflingly awesome.
For all the over-the-top Jimmer glorification, San Diego State’s season has been pretty damn good. They’re those overachieving underdogs who, when you watch them play, you’re always hoping will prove you wrong—sort of like Gonzaga a few years back, except their star player won’t cry on the court … before the game is over … in the NCAA tournament.
We’re hoping they prove us wrong again tomorrow. San Diego State is the pick.