The 2018 NBA draft featured many young, hungry players waiting impatiently to see which team, if any, would select them. The biggest headlines from the night included Deandre Ayton going number one, Michael Porter Jr. falling to the 14th pick, and LiAngelo Ball not being drafted. However, there’s another huge, but undervalued story to take away from draft night regarding Oklahoma sharpshooter Trae Young, who was traded to the Atlanta Hawks on draft night.
Young has ornithophobia, which makes people extremely uncomfortable around and afraid of birds. In college, when Young would visit opposing teams, some fans would hold up large pictures of birds to faze him. That didn’t seem to stop his relentless scoring as the freshman point guard remained unflappable.
However, the NBA is a whole different level. The competition is better, the schedule is busier, and the fans are rowdier. Passionate NBA fans will do anything to support their teams. In many instances, the support comes through the taunting of players on opposing teams. For example, when LeBron James and the unstoppable Miami Heat faced the D-Rose, Joakim Noah-led Chicago Bulls, Bulls fans held up blown up cutouts of LeBron crying. And when Kevin Durant returned to OKC after his departure to the 73-9 Warriors, fans wore t-shirts with a cupcake on them (in an attempt to label KD as soft), while other salty OKC fans held up signs of the snake emoji.
Superstars that deal with that are rarely thrown off, but Young is a rookie. The kid was in high school two years ago, and he’s not even old enough to drink alcohol.
He may have been able to deal with hecklers in high school and college, but it will be significantly harder for Young at the pro level considering his own team mascot is a hawk. During Hawks games, the fierce screech of a hawk is played throughout the stadium after an impressive 3-pointer, or a momentum-fueling play. Therefore, the away games won’t be the only concern for Young, but the home games as well—maybe even a little bit more.
This is a bigger problem than it seems for Atlanta. Most rooks get nervous because they are trying to prove themselves in the big leagues, but Young will have to avoid being distracted by all of the bird-references throughout home games. If the 6’2” point guard isn’t relaxed during games, then he may not have the same shooting touch he had in high school that allowed him to average 41 PPG, or in college that let him become the deadliest scorer in the NCAA.
The Hawks organization most likely won’t change their mascot, but they may have to change up a few things to fully guarantee comfort in its new point guard. Otherwise, this unlucky situation could hold back Young from NBA stardom.