• ESPN.com | MYESPN | Register | Forgot Password?
  • MEMBER NAME PASSWORD

KEITH VAN HORN


In today's America, trends of culture blow eastward as they grow. Chicanas in East L.A. find their lipstick fashion on the mouths of models in Soho magazine shoots, and Middle American rappers hear their funky rhyme flows delivered with Brooklyn accents on MTV. It's appropriate then, if the NBA is in business as it should be in February, that we direct your attention to Diamond Bar, California's, own Keith Van Horn, a pure West Coast product now on view by the shores of the Hudson River.

It's apparent that the Nets forward grew up on the Showtime Lakers. You can tell from the deadeye way he drives the lane, that way that has wiped the urge to call him Opie right off the minds of a thousand defenders. It's in his unquestioned interest in taking the three-no, taking just about any shot on the floor. The guy Jayson Williams calls Pale Rider even plays the noncontact form of D favored in L.A., too.

Maybe most telltale of his influences are those damn socks. Up near his knees as though his calves were under arrest, the socks of Keith Van Horn are the kind of fashion risk that can get a rookie hazed. But Van Horn, 23, carries himself with such quiet cockiness that by the end of last season, New Jersey teammates were copying him.

There's an ABA quality to how Van Horn does his thing. And in fact, the player he most favors is Billy Cunningham, the old Sixers forward who showed his real wares as a Carolina Cougars scoring machine. Yet to simply label Van Horn a throwback is a mistake. He brings to the table both an easy blend of arrogant carriage and game-tight skills, a forward-looking fusion of the old and the new.

He's not unconscious when he shoots with time winding down; he's just beyond worrying about it. He married at 20, soon after having his first child, a little girl. Emotional burnishing of this sort-earned at the age when most college stars are majoring in How to Take Being Coddled to Its Logical Conclusion-will lead a dude to say –been there, done that” at the spectre of the buzzer.

Van Horn has taken the high road in another aspect of his journey to stardom. Arriving in the league, he was immediately hailed as the next Larry Bird, echoing the Rick Barry comparisons Bird heard before he put that stereotype to death.

But Van Horn just dubbed such pronouncements –interesting” and wondered aloud why pundits had not compared him to Derrick McKey, whose game is a more accurate template. This is not your father's Great White Hope.

By declining to take advantage of what others often take as pure privilege, Van Horn makes those long-range bombs and sinewy breakaways linger long past game's end. He's a star for the millennium. -Donnell Alexander