Stop comparing Shabazz Napier to Kemba Walker

Shabazz Napier has led his UConn Huskie team all season long (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images).

Shabazz Napier has led his UConn Huskie team all season long (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images).

Much has been made of Shabazz Napier, the senior point guard for the UConn Huskies. Napier’s legend has grown and he is the subject of many comparisons to UConn legend Kemba Walker. Stop trying to compare Shabazz to Kemba, appreciate Napier for who he is and what he is attempting to do.

Who can forget the magical run that Kemba Walker took the Huskies on in 2011. That season, UConn finished with a Big East record of 9-9 which earned them the nine seed in the conference tournament. They were looking like they had little chance at making much noise in the Big East tournament, much less the NCAA tournament.

UConn did the unthinkable and won five straight games in five days to win a Big East championship. They were even able to defeat Pitt who finished the season in first place in the conference and ranked third overall.

The above video is where Kemba’s legend began to grow. Most college basketball fans surely remember the step-back, ankle-breaking buzzer-beating shot to give UConn the win over a team ranked in the top five.

Walker was able to lead UConn to a national championship that season, leading the team to an unprecedented eleven straight tournament wins.

A role player on that national championship team was none other than Shabazz Napier.

Flash forward to the present and Napier is taking those same Huskies on an impressive title run of his own.

This time, UConn is in the American Athletic Conference and only had to win two games to land a spot in the conference championship. Unfortunately, defending-national champion Louisville proved to be too much for the Huskies as Louisville won 71-61.

Shabazz has led his Huskies team to a Final Four by defeating second seeded and former Big East rival Villanova, third seeded Iowa State and Big 10 champion and fourth seeded Michigan State. Napier will meet the toughest test yet when they face off with the Florida Gators Saturday night.

Should the Huskies knock off the Gators, the comparison of Shabazz and Kemba will continue to flow. But they should not, they should stop. Shabazz is not Kemba and he never will be.

kembawalkeruvuk

kembawalkeruvuk

What Kemba did for the 2010-11 Huskies was a feat that will never be repeated: to win five games in five days and six NCAA tournament games in a row will never be rivaled. People underestimate just how challenging it is to win five basketball games in five days. Especially when the matchups in the second and third games had byes until the UConn game.

Napier is great, he is tremendous, but he is no Kemba. Walker averaged more points that Napier and played in a much a more challenging conference that the Huskies did this year.

The year that Kemba led the Huskies to a championship, the Big East sent 11 teams to the NCAA tournament. That is the most that any conference has sent in the modern era. Walker led his team past all of them in the Big East tournament.

This year, UConn is in the American Athletic Association, a conference that sent a meager four teams to the NCAA tournament this season. Napier failed to win the conference tournament this year, however that does not take away from Napier’s spirited run.

Stop the comparisons, it is an unrealistic expectation that is being put on Napier. He has nothing left to prove.

The last time UConn met with Florida, Shabazz hit a clutch game winning buzzer beater.

That loss happens to be Florida’s last loss, since that game they have been unstoppable in winning 30 straight games.

  • Jim — Class of ’74

    Kemba did not do it alone. He had Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz and Alex O out there with him. The national championship game would have been lost if UConn had to depend on Kemba as a scoring threat. Kemba was a leader. Shabazz is a leader. But they are different players with different teammates. It is inappropriate to try to say that one was “better” than the other.