Duke University is on a roll in the NCAA tournament after advancing to another Final Four. In Coach K’s last year, he’s looking to go out Peyton Manning-style, with a championship and a parade in Durham, North Carolina.
One of the main reasons for this amazing run is star forward Paolo Banchero. Banchero will be a top-three pick in the 2022 NBA draft and is also looking to add a national title to his early résumé. A résumé that could eventually place him among the greatest hoops players of all time if he can lead Duke to the promised land.
Banchero scored a game-high 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field, including 3-for-4 from three-point range, to lead Duke over Texas Tech in an Elite Eight matchup on Thursday. Then he followed that performance with 16 points, seven boards and three assists as Duke defeated Arkansas 78-73 on Saturday to advance to the Final Four in New Orleans.
Coach K raved about the potential greatness of Banchero.
“Paolo did a couple of things tonight that he has never done in his life, and he did it instinctually,’’ Krzyzewski told reporters after the victory over Texas Tech. “He just wanted to win so badly, and it was so beautiful to see. You watch the tape and just see: It’s like when great players just go. They just go, and the moment and the need take them to a place that a great player would love to be in, and that’s where he was.”
But right now Banchero can only debate about the GOATs. A dream come true would be for Banchero to one day be the subject of this debate. He currently has to be content causing waves with his opinions on which player inspired him the most.
In a now-viral video, the Duke Blue Devils star can be seen explaining who the GOAT is to him.
“LeBron James, ’cause he’s the greatest all-around player, like, ever, like, there’s nobody even close,” said Banchero, who was born in 2002, just one year after LeBron entered the league. “People say Kevin Durant better, Kobe better. Kevin Durant don’t do nothing better than LeBron besides shoot. Kobe, he don’t do nothing better than LeBron besides shoot. So, LeBron is the GOAT.”
this is why Paolo Banchero is the #1 pick in the draft pic.twitter.com/FzItcANO0q
— Lakers in… (@onlytaron) March 20, 2022
With a similar bag to LeBron in terms of wing scoring and playmaking, it is easy to see why Lebron is a favorite of Banchero’s. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and greats of the past will have to cut the young Banchero some slack.
In his first year at Duke, the 6-foot-10 prospect averaged 17 points per game, three assists per game, and seven rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 33 percent from three. He tries to be a do-it-all player for his team and naturally accepts his scoring role as well, a trait he shares with LeBron.
Now, as compelling of an argument as Paolo makes, the Seattle native seems to have a huge fan in James himself. This is evinced by LeBron reposting Paolo Banchero on social media, and giving him a shoutout after a great freshman debut against Kentucky in November 2021.
In this picture of Banchero on the cover of SLAM magazine, he had some of LeBron’s shoes on. James retweeted the pic and said “AND BY THE WAY HE SO TOUGH,” also saying “SEATTLE GOT ANOTHER ONE.”
Paolo was ecstatic about receiving recognition and admiration from LeBron, who is one of his favorite players. This is every hooper’s dream, and not everyone gets their dreams fulfilled.
— SLAM Kicks (@SLAMKicks) November 10, 2021
While the LeBron lovefest was front and center for Paolo, the backlash to his comments were as well.
In a few replies under the twitter post there were comments such as:
“Jus coz u can hoop don’t mean you know hoop”, and “boy gone get cooked by KD and change this statement”.
Paol wasn’t worried about the retorts, because he is also a fan of the game, tweeting:
“no way bron put me on tha story man sorry but y’all gotta let me be a fan for a second 😭 that’s my goat fr 🤞🏽”
Banchero is a talented player who has future star written all over him, and his next stop is the Final Four against archrival UNC on April 2. There’s no better way for a Duke player to cement his legacy than to beat Carolina for a chance to play for a national title.
It’s almost written in the stars.