By Nicholas Knoth
Seven years ago, I was among the eighteen million viewers of Julian Newman’s “INSANE” twelve-year-old workout. For those who are unfamiliar, the video is a compilation of the seventh-grader’s extraordinary basketball training, which featured absurdly fast dribbling skills, intense cardio exercises, and seemingly impossible deep three-pointers. Many agreed that most twelve-year-olds were far from achieving Newman’s level of talent and that, at the time, Newman held immense promise as an athlete.
While Youtube videos go viral seemingly all the time, Newman also attracted attention from major media producers. Not only did he make national headlines on The New York Times and Sports Illustrated, he was also invited on talk shows such as The Steve Harvey Show and Conan to share his experience as a seventh-grader on a varsity basketball team. This publicity, in addition to his many viral mixtapes on Youtube, painted a strikingly bright future for Newman’s career.
As many of you know, however, Newman not only hasn’t gotten much further than high school basketball but has also increasingly become a shunned figure among sports fans. On top of that – this is the most surprising development – Newman has become more known for his reality TV show, Hello Newmans, than his actual basketball career. Let’s take a closer look at some of the contributors to this peculiar outcome.
When his first few mixtapes came out, Newman’s prodigal status was relatively well-received – his videos pulled in millions of viewers, jump-started his social media presence to the likes of a celebrity, and gained him early recognition from numerous top university basketball programs.
Soon, however, he lost his support. This is, in large part, due to his arrogant playing style and his tendency to chase individual highlights over team success. Instead of playing as a dedicated point guard who runs the offense, sets up teammates, and takes good shots, Newman relied mostly on his own dribbling and shooting skills to score – and embarrassed opponents while doing so.
On typical teams, coaches would shut this kind of behavior down immediately. On the Downey Christian Patriots and Prodigy Prep, however, this behavior was not only permitted but was also encouraged by head coach Jamie Newman, who happened to be Julian’s father.
While this strategy worked quite well when playing against less competitive teams (Julian often scored over forty points against these teams), it certainly did not when playing against greater competition such as IMG Academy (IMG won by sixty points when they faced off). Instead of racking up over thirty points and embarrassing opponents during these kinds of games, Julian and his team quickly gained a reputation of underperformance under pressure.
This resulted in extraordinarily harsh online criticism and even convinced certain individuals to start disapproving chants at Newman’s games. Increasingly, new videos about Julian Newman were also less about his highlights and more about his disappointing performances. In fact, if you were to search “Julian Newman” on Youtube right now, the first page of results would consist almost entirely of “lowlights,” “cocky moments,” and “shut down” compilations (excluding Hello Newman episodes).
Another factor that played a big role in Newman’s disappointing outcome is his height. At only five feet and seven inches, Julian has struggled to convince university coaches that he will be able to perform at the next level. Regardless of Julian’s streetball-like dribbling tricks and ability to pull up from far behind the arc, there is no doubt that his small size puts him at a serious disadvantage when compared to larger college players.
Moving forward, there are few next steps Newman can take. First, he could play professionally overseas. That way, he could continue developing as a basketball player even without division one college basketball exposure. An added benefit is that he could also start earning money immediately. At the moment, it is unclear where exactly he will take his talents, but it seems that this is what he wants to pursue.
Another avenue he could follow is to continue his reality TV show Hello Newmans. As Overtime (producer) describes it, it’s a show that follows “two obsessive parents building a clothing brand, a son whose basketball skills made him a viral star at 11, and a daughter who’s one of the best hoopers in the country.” The episodes typically reach around a million views on Youtube, so it will be interesting to see if the Newmans can grow it into something bigger.
Either way, it doesn’t look like Julian will take the conventional professional basketball route of playing NCAA basketball or the NBA. Although some elements of the outcome were in his control, others certainly weren’t, so it’s hard to blame him entirely. Personally, I was very surprised with this outcome as Julian, with his incredible skills at a young age, unequivocally stood out on the national stage as a young basketball prodigy.