The two top stories of the day (by a mile) were the ones about Rak, who had been picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As for McCullough, who was picked before Rak, in the first round of the NBA Draft mind you, the stories about him were like afterthoughts. The 6th and 7th most-read stories of the day, fractions of Christmas's page views. Less even than a story about a transfer player who may or may not end up coming to Syracuse.
There's an obvious reason for much of this. Syracuse fans spent four years getting to know Rakeem Christmas as he worked his way up from a gangly freshman with raw talent into the dominant all-around center he became as a senior. He became the face of the team this past season, received a standing ovation on Senior Day and set numerous high marks before leaving for the NBA.
To say McCullough was a one-and-done is giving his time here too much credit. He was more like a half-and-one. He played a grand total of sixteen games. He spent two months on the court with SU, and the two least interesting months of the season, at that.
None of that was his fault, it should be noted. A massive injury derailed his season and all of the hype he brought with him to Syracuse. There's nothing more he could have done. Unavoidable injury aside, he was a "good soldier" who put up decent numbers before it all came crashing down.
Syracuse fans are going to feel an obvious connection to Christmas that they don't have with McCullough. They have a rooting interest in Rak built up over time and experience whereas they remember what-could-have-been with Chris and not much else.
When McCullough announced he was going pro rather than returning for a sophomore season, there was the usual rumblings inside the fanbase. Those rumblings turned into grudges and evolved, for some, into outright disdain. As we've prepared for the NBA Draft and profiled McCullough, everything we've written has received at least a smattering of "who cares" and "good riddance" responses. As if Chris kicked everyone's dog on his way out the door.
Even on draft night, I saw a handful of tweets from Syracuse fans who were openly rooting against McCullough and were already calling for his career to be a failure. I racked my brain to see if I had forgotten a time when McCullough had trashed Orange fans or broken some kind of promise and I couldn't think of any. Then I saw a tweet from someone saying that his sore feelings towards McCullough were because, and I quote, "men used to be men and not greedy bastards."
So much to unpack there I'm not even sure where to begin.
First, I checked to see if it was Aaron Sorkin who said that. It wasn't, surprisingly. But it was an SU fan nonetheless.
Then I decided breaking down that train of thought wasn't the point. The point was understanding the presumption behind it.
The presumption that Chris McCullough's loyalties are first and foremost to the Syracuse Basketball Community and then, maybe, his family.
See, Chris McCullough is about to become a Dad. Whatever your opinion of his life choices, it is an undeniable fact that he is about to be a father with a child to support. He's on the record has saying the situation "played a big part" in his decision to go pro. That's to say nothing of his girlfriend and his extended family as well.
Chris McCullough is supporting his family. The same family that has been there for him since the day he was born and the same family that will be there for him the day he dies.
As for his Syracuse family, he'll always have a place here and we'll always consider him a Syracuse guy, sixteen games or sixty games. We'll root for him in the pros (or at least we should as his success/failure is our success/failure).
But we're not going to be there for Chris when things get tough.
We don't really know him. The same way we Syracuse fans don't really know one another. We cheer and high-five and hug and tell tales of SU lore, but when the game's over and we all go home, our relationships hit pause, only to reboot at the first whistle of the next game. Same goes for how players fit into our family. During the season, we root for them, cheer for them, yell at them and pour everything we've got into whatever we can do to help them win. But once the season is over, our relationship usually goes on pause again. We don't follow them home for the summer. We don't know what's going on in their personal lives. We don't know what scares them or makes them cry or even what makes them laugh.
We're a family, but, to a point.
Unlike Chris McCullough's actual family. The one he entered the NBA Draft for. The one he was picked in the first round for. The one that he'll try to support by suiting up for the Brooklyn Nets.
Maybe he'll get sent down to the D-League. Maybe he'll end up in Europe. Maybe his leg won't heal and he'll never play a game. It's the chance he takes.
But he takes that same chance at Syracuse. Scholarships and roster spots go away too, you know.
Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legally allowed and guaranteed everywhere in America by the Constitution. As you're well aware, it was a decision met with elation on one side and disappointment on the other. Just because it's legal everywhere now, that doesn't mean dissenters suddenly have to like it. They merely have to allow it.
Because at the end of the day, all LGBTQ people wanted was the chance to do what they felt was best by their family. Their immediate family. The people that they come home to everyday. The people they lean on for support and love more than anyone else. The people with whom they share a connection that does not negatively effect the greater community in any way. The people that make them happy in a world that has a funny (and not-so-funny) way of often doing the opposite.
I've never understood why anyone would want to stand in the way of that.
Somewhere in there, I think, there's a connection with the way some college sports fans feel about athletes who leave early. There's a sense of a social contract being broken. A sense that things aren't the way they used to be and that can't possibly be good because the way things used to be were great. That everyone should just do what they're told so that the rest of us don't have to worry about having our expectations dashed.
Of course, we never should have had those dash-able expectations in the first place.
You should always be able to make a decision in the best interest of you and your family. Chris McCullough's dream has always been to play in the NBA, not at Syracuse University. He came here as a means to an end. Just like Rakeem Christmas, I should add. Rak didn't do things "the right way" any more than Chris did things "the wrong way." They just did them their way based on the circumstances. Had Rak come to Syracuse with Chris's kind of hype, he probably would have left early too. It would have been his right.
And when you've got the right to do what you think is best for you, you have to do it. Every time.
We don't have to like the decision.
But we can't hate someone for making it.