During the winter of 1998, I was busy deciding what university to attend out of a small handful of choices. Out of the six options, I had only one front runner predicated on several minor but important factors: that the university have a top tier NCAA men's basketball team, that it house a first-rate video game arcade, that one of my parents attended but did not graduate from it, and that it had not accepted me into its engineering school. There was only one clear choice, and that was UCLA.
At the time, UCLA had one of the best arcades in the country, often serving as a testbed for the newest arcade games, so new that they were often imported from Japan.
They also had one of the best basketball programs in the nation, having won the NCAA title in 1995, and finishing first in the Pac-10 conference two years in a row and third the two years after that. And with their phenomenal point guard, Baron Davis, they looked poised to continue their success.
So it was that I committed to UCLA with expectations of watching Davis and the Bruins hoist a Pac-10 title banner or whatever they do at Pauley Pavilion, while spending many leisure hours at the arcade working on my lackluster Street Fighter skills.
Then, just as my senior year of high school was wrapping up, Baron Davis declared himself eligible for the NBA draft—and singlehandedly tanked the UCLA basketball program for the next six years, or pretty much my whole collegiate career.
Baron Davis first ended up on my radar as one of the nations top high school basketball prospects. He was a local kid, having attended Crossroads School in Santa Monica. I remember watching him play in the McDonald's All-American Game, and winning the dunk contest against an impressive Kenny Gregory (Whatever happened to that guy?). So I was excited when I heard that he was going to be attending UCLA in 1997. I was already heavily favoring UCLA, so knowing that one of the top point guards in the nation was going to be running the show for the Bruins got me excited.
But it proved to be nothing but disappointment and desolation thereafter. Jim Harrick, the most successful UCLA basketball coach since the legendary John Wooden, was fired by UCLA in 1996 as a result of questionable decisions as well as controversy surrounding the recruitment of Baron Davis. That brought in Steve Lavin who took over as head coach and in the few short years thereafter proved that he wasn't fit to be the head coach of a top basketball program.
And Davis bolted right as the Bruins seemed to be gelling. Following his departure were several lackluster recruiting classes, with the team slipping lower in the Pac-10 rankings with each subsequent year. The arcade also went through several renovations, closing down at some points, and shrinking in size and diversity.
Instead of walking around campus hearing the buzz about how well Davis played in last night's game, I heard about how Earl Watson knocked up my friend's friend. And I had classes with guys like Matt Barnes who spent most of class throwing crap at the people seated in front of him in the penultimate row.
So, for the next five years, embittered by the dissolution of potential basketball magickry, I spent as little time as I possibly could on campus. In short, Baron Davis ruined my college experience. Add to that that although he is a good player, he's almost never lived up to the hype. Also add to that that wherever Davis goes, misfortune almost certainly follows. So I say screw you, Baron Davis, you sunovabitch.