How the NBA missed on Lauri Markkanen

Lauri Markkanen's stardom in Utah seemed to come out of nowhere. How did we miss what was right in front of our eyes?
Lauri Markkanen throws it down against Golden State
Lauri Markkanen throws it down against Golden State / Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
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I don't need to tell you about Markkanen's career revival in Utah. After putting up incredible performances for Finland in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Markkanen hit the ground running, as the Jazz surpassed league-wide expectations with Markkanen leading the charge. Finally, he found a team in Utah that trusted him to lead and gave him the freedom to play the way he knew he could.

For Markkanen, being an All-Star starter for All-Star Weekend's host team, the Utah Jazz, was more than a heartwarming story of a player overcoming poor circumstances to breach the surface of basketball stardom. His was the story of a hardworking kid who never grew out of his habits. Though his path was untraditional, he achieved his dreams by pushing his limits until they gave way.

Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen at the 2024 All-Star Media Day / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

People around the NBA have a habit of labeling players and trying to fit them inside a box to simplify their understanding. When a player is limited by the outside influences of the media, coaching staff, and fanbases, the generally perceived player tends to become who that player is. Improvement is often seen as overachievement rather than growth. He isn't just a spot-up shooter, he isn't Dirk Lite, and he isn't a declining underachiever. Lauri Markkanen is Lauri Markkanen, and he is awesome.

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