A 6' 6 shooter from an Atlantic coast town, educated in Chapel Hill, taken top five after leaving early, named NBA Rookie of the Year on a Central Division team. Hmmm. Vince Carter, now reporting to the scorer's table of greatness, has much in common with Michael Jordan. (Sorry Vince, we can't help ourselves.) Of course, Michael was never our Next Athlete. Vince is, because we can't take our eyes off him-in or out of uniform. It's just that simple. But more complex. What he and Michael and the rest of our Next Ones all share is a sense of freedom-from convention, from limitation, from physics. No way can an athlete win five track and field golds, until Marion Jones finds a way in Sydney. Now way can someone so young and um, un-American tame Tiger, but Sergio Garcia might be that someone. No way can a mortal hover over the head of others, then reverxe-slam the rock, except didn't Vince do that last night?
You see the freedom in the joy with which these athletes run, jump, play. Granted, theycarry varying degrees of Nextness. Some are months from brand-name status, some days. And their different histories reflect changing times and places. When MJ was VC's age, the NBA hadn't found Europe, hockey was Canada's game, golf and tennis were WASP's nests and baseball clubhouse music was more Oak Ridge Boys, less merengue. In additon to who's Next, we tell you where's Next, a look at Nigeria's simmering sports scene and other launching pads, and a tale of NHL scouts in Europe.
So don't be surprised when a Taiwanese slugger wins the Triple Crown, or a Lithuanian big man breaks the single-season rebounding record, or an American futboler on the planet. It's a whole new world-even though some things never change. One of our Next Ones is another UNC shooter raised near the Atlantic coast¹