Friday, January 15, 2010


The 1995 McDonald’s All-American Game was so rich in talent that, even at the time, it was favorably compared to the storied class of ’79 (Ralph Sampson, Isiah Thomas, James Worthy, Dominique Wilkins).

Let’s examine the ’95 game, with a McGimmick. We’ll take the stars of the game and look at them through the lens of a McDonald’s menu. This also speaks to how commodified the game had become, even at the high-school level.

Kevin Garnett is the undisputed star of this class and the MVP of the game, making him the obvious Big Mac. Two all-beef patties (inside and mid-range game) make up the meat of Garnett’s appeal, with the added appeal of American cheese (feel for the game), pickles (defensive awareness) and onions (good ball-handling for a big man). To top it off, Garnett definitely had the special sauce – a Thousand Island-like mix of irrepressible enthusiasm and a boisterous competitiveness.

Garnett was truly a man among boys at the Kiel Center in St. Louis. He brought the ball up the court, drained 17-footers, handled the rock in transition, and punctuated each swat and dunk with a guttural bellow.

Ron Mercer, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Paul Pierce could be categorized as Sausage McMuffins. Their games were definitely tasty, if a little blander than the Big Mac. There was no secret about what they offered, just sausage, egg and cheese. Mercer displayed his calling card early in the game, dialing long distance on 3 three-pointers in the first five minutes. Pierce was a crafty offensive force, shaking free for several long jumpers and mid-range bank shots. Abdur-Rahim was a quiet contributor, working hard on the low blocks and taking advantage of his opportunities in a format that is usually guard-dominated.

Future UNC stars Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison have to be packaged together, kind of like Chicken McNuggets. You can see the potential, especially in Carter’s aerial display during the game, but the teenagers still needed something extra (dipping sauces?) that college would provide.

Kris Clack, Derek Hood, B.J. McKie and Jelani McCoy are McChickens. They’re on the menu, but they won’t be the first thing to jump out at you. Clack threw down several vicious dunks in the game and McKie had the defensive highlight by pinning Louis Bullock’s layup against the board – but their names are lost among the stars that went on to NBA fame. All four went on to solid college careers, and they are still kicking around professional leagues across the globe.

Who represents the McRib? That’s got to be Stephon Marbury, much hyped and never quite as good as you want it to be. Marbury and Garnett were the faces of this class, but the point guard from Coney Island disappointed in the McDonald’s game. He drained a couple threes and dropped a few no-look dimes, but he hardly jumped out as someone to build a team, or a menu, around.

A point guard that exceeded expectations in the game, however, was another New York City product. Is there any doubt that Shammgod Wells is the Shamrock Shake? Before he anointed himself God Shammgod, he was a prestidigitatorial prodigy who delighted in finding creative ways to bring the ball up the court. It’s kind of like the Shamrock Shake, you know it doesn’t have much nutritional value, but you get excited when you see it.

Token white guys Ryan Robertson, Taymon Domzalski and Sam Okey – the pride of Cassville, Wis. – can’t be anything other than Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. Non-threatening, tasteless and devoid of meaning.

That leaves the rotund Robert “Tractor” Traylor, who looked more like fry cook than a McDonald’s All-American. Pencil him in as the Steak, Egg and Cheese Bagel. It looks sloppy, is dangerous to take a chance on and should be served with a towel. Yet it’s always tempting, like a 6-foot-8, 300-pound young man with a surprisingly athletic array of moves.

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