The Case for Marvin Bagley

By Mandela Namaste
Jan. 23, 2018

Have you ever watched an interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson? The famous astronomer has been a talk-show regular for over a decade, so the probability you’ve seen him is high, but have you watched him? If you haven’t, here’s a link to one of his nine appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

What does this video show about Tyson? First and foremost, it proves the thesis that he is one of the smartest people on the planet. However, it’s not just that he’s so smart- it’s how that fact is evident when watching him. There are multiple instances in the above clip where Tyson is trembling as he talks, and it is not because he is epileptic. In those moments, his body assumes the form and motion of a volcano- it’s as if all of his vast knowledge will bust out of mouth if he doesn’t actively control himself. You can see Tyson holding himself back, scrolling through his mental encyclopedia, searching for the right set of facts, the right bit of knowledge to stun the crowd and Colbert. It’s in witnessing videos like this where you understand just how special a person like Neil DeGrasse Tyson is.

A similar visceral experience applies to Duke’s precocious young big man, Marvin Bagley III. Number 35 has taken college basketball by storm, averaging 21.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game while shooting 61.2% from the field, a stat line matched only by Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman, and former Tennessee State center Carlos Rogers. Bagley should be a high school senior, which seems impossible when you watch him play- he belongs on an NBA court. It’s not just the stat line and his imposing physique though- Bagley has already reached Tyson’s level, where you understand on an instinctual level why and how he will be great in the NBA. If you haven’t watched MB35 play, here’s a highlight reel.

Like Tyson’s shivers or Beyonce’s speaking voice (her speaking voice is the living embodiment of if chocolate could be sexy- of course she’s a spectacular singer), Bagley has a readily apparent greatness to him, and it shows through in the simplest of basketball-related actions- running and jumping. On the fast break, Bagley’s limbs appear to be working at 70-80 percent speed, especially compared to his speedy teammates like Trevon Duval, but he always ends up right under the basket for an easy finish in perfect rhythm. This is because he’s not running, but rather bounding, not unlike a velociraptor. This bounce shows through in the half court as well, especially when Bagley outjumps his opponent three and four times to grab or tip rebounds to himself. It’s almost as if he tried to run at top speed, he’d end up quite literally jumping out of the gym, and like Tyson in interviews, he is actively holding himself back, trying to blend in with the mere mortals around him.

Now, it’s obviously absurd and unfair to Marvin Bagley III to compare him to Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Beyoncé, two of the most brilliant and famous people on Earth. However, as the conversation surrounding the top picks in the 2018 NBA Draft heats up, think about the other top prospects, and whether they possess such an “it” quality as Bagley’s sheer athleticism. Sure, Luka Doncic can make a nice pass and DeAndre Ayton has all the tools, but where’s the transcendent, overwhelming, utterly unique quality in their skill sets? Most every NBA superstar has one- LeBron’s physique, Durant’s combination of size and fluidity, Curry’s sudden and unnaturally fast release on both his shots and passes, Harden’s offbeat herky-jerkiness, Russ’ ferocity, and so on. At all times, NBA teams are searching to find the next generational talent- if they really want to find him, he’ll be bounding up and down the floor in Durham these next few months. Sure, Bagley’s shot needs work. Sure, he doesn’t have crazy long arms. But he’s got a defining “1% level” trait, which sets him apart in this draft. When it’s all said and done, Bagley will eventually become one of Tyson’s favorite celestial objects- a star.