The Dagger - NCAAB

Seven North Carolina Tar Heels have seen their number retired: Jack Cobb, George Glamack, Lennie Rosenbluth, Phil Ford, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Serge Zwikker and Antawn Jamison. Tyler Hansbrough will be joining that esteemed list.

It's an amazing honor and it's well-deserved. The 6'9" junior has been at Carolina for three years and is probably the favorite to win the Naismith Award for the national player of the year. He's an enormously popular fellow.

But Hansbrough's popularity has turned into another subject all together. Is Hansbrough so popular, in part because he ... well, because he doesn't put the "bro" in Hansbrough?

Mike Freeman of CBS Sports believes so. Writes Freeman (quoting Sports Illustrated):

"Hansbrough's credentials are impressive enough, but it's hard not to give him bonus points for squeezing out every bit of his potential, for never coasting ... " writes SI. The magazine later called Hansbrough "the face of college basketball."

Again, most college players don't coast. Why does Hansbrough get bonus points for simply accomplishing what everyone else does? Were Kevin Durant and Greg Oden coasters? Is Georgetown's Roy Hibbert a coaster? Name a coaster of a top player on Tennessee or Memphis or UCLA. You can't.

And I'm trying to remember the last time a black player was called the face of college basketball. Maybe it has occurred 500 times. I just can't remember.

[...]

America loves a tough white guy."
America does indeed love a tough white guy, but I don't know if it's a good idea to use Hansbrough to make that point. We'll get back to that in a second, but first, let me say that I think there's a lot of truth behind Freeman's general sentiment, if not Hansbrough specifically. 

People relate to players who they see as having the same qualities as themselves. Hansbrough often goes up against players who are taller, quicker, more athletic, and more genetically gifted. Right now, for example, he's in a two-man battle for Player of the Year against K-State's Michael Beasley.

Beasley's taller than Hansbrough, way quicker than Hansbrough, is a better shooter, and does things more fluidly. When he scores in the post, it usually looks easy and smooth, as if it was what he was born to do.

Hansbrough, on the other hand, is more likely to get bumped, fight for position, spin away from the basket, and end up throwing a one-handed, off-balance shot at the basket (a shot that goes in more often than not). 

Hansbrough probably has to work harder for his points, but does that make him a harder worker than Beasley? Of course not. Even with his talent, Michael Beasley doesn't get to the position he's in without busting his ass. It's not his fault he's smooth.

And none of this is meant to disparage Hansbrough, either, and it doesn't mean that Beasley's a better college player than Hansbrough. Right now, I see it as a dead heat between the two for the Naismith Award.

But the people watching at home, and the people calling the games are more likely to relate to the guy who looks like them and wasn't blessed with ungodly talent.  

But there are other reasons why Hansbrough's not a great example to make Freeman's point. He plays for North Carolina, maybe the most popular and recognizable college program in the country. He's been there for three years, while almost every other college star is around for just one. Add that to Hansbrough's enormous talent and statistics, and you've got a surefire recipe for enormous popularity and media-darling status.

The fact is that Hansbrough, despite having the dumbest nickname in sports history, is a hard-working player, he is fun to watch, he is focused, determined, and tough, and he does deserve the honor of having his jersey retired at North Carolina. 

There are plenty of reasons for the media and the public to love the guy.

Media crazy (in love) with Psycho T / CBS Sports
Tyler Hansbrough’s jersey to be retired by North Carolina / Yahoo! Sports

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