Imagine being 19 years old, the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Imagine learning your new teammate is LeBron James, the best in the world. Imagine knowing Kyrie Irving and others are also on the team. Imagine all of your basketball dreams coming true.
Then imagine hearing you may already be on the way out. Imagine seeing your name in trade rumors, day after day, minute after minute. You haven’t even played an NBA game or gotten a chance to run with the best of the best. Already, you may be feeling something less than wanted.
Remember, at 19, you really are still just a kid.
It’s true that your dad, Mitchell Wiggins, played in the NBA. It’s true that your basketball background likely helped prepare you for life in the pros. But that’s actual basketball. Trade rumors are everything but.
Trade rumors mean always being on edge, wondering where you might live next, with whom you might play. There are worse things in the world, for sure. But you’re just 19, someone who didn’t seek any of this, someone who just wants to play the game and keep to himself.
Instead, you have to talk about it. You have to answer for the talk that suggests you could be included in a deal for Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love. You have to handle it like a pro — despite the fact that, at 19 and without so much as a contract yet, you’re really still an amateur.
Imagine just wanting to work on your game, just wanting to think about playing in Cleveland, just wanting to dream about running the floor next to Kyrie and LeBron. But you know you can’t be too sure. You know you don’t really know what may be next.
So you just say what you can.
"It’s been crazy," is how Wiggins accurately described this basketball summer to SI.com.
Star is born
Wiggins was born in Toronto in February 1995, the son of Mitchell and former Olympic sprinter Marita Payne-Wiggins. Your parents met as athletes at Florida State University. They have stayed together, focused on raising a loving and humble family, taught you how to behave like a man and how to handle the adulation that comes with being a basketball star.
Basketball has always been in the family, in fact. Andrew’s older brother Nick played for Wichita State this past season. Older brother Mitchell Jr. currently plays for Southeastern U.
But Andrew Wiggins has always been the most special on the court. Andrew is stylish, a slasher, a monster dunker. He played for one season at Kansas University, was on the cover of Sports Illustrated before playing a college game, and hailed by some as The Next Kobe Bryant. Again, he never sought out any of it.
But at 6-foot-8 with long arms and a 44-inch vertical jump, and basketball skills more developed than your peers, the spotlight is tough to avoid.
That’s especially the case when you play for a team that now has James.
With James, the Cavs’ mission is to win right away. Wiggins, they say, may need time to learn the NBA. Hence, the trade talk and rumors, some of which are real, others not so much.
Love, of course, is a three-time All-Star who stands 6-10 and is just 25 himself. He can do it all — from lead the league in rebounding to score underneath to bury shots from anywhere on the floor. He is, without question, a better NBA player than Wiggins today, a proven commodity who would immediately make the Cavs a serious title contender.
But the Cavs insist they haven’t included Wiggins in any talks about Love. The national media has been reporting differently — but the national media rarely bothers to ask the Cavs. The national media is too often only interested in stuff that sells, as they quickly swoop down on the people and cities they don’t really cover then fly back away.
Still, true or not, and desired or not, Wiggins is a hot topic in all this buzz. That is just the way it often goes in today’s rumor-based NBA.
Imagine being Andrew Wiggins. Imagine being 19, and this being the summer in which you are welcomed to pro basketball. Imagine how conflicted you might feel.
No. 1 overall draft pick or not, it can’t be easy.