Basketball has been around for 125 years and, over time, has undergone several evolutions to become the game it is today. Helping shape its history and legacy are the big names and great teams that have dedicated their fiery hearts to the game they love However, prior to being immortalized in the history books, these players and teams went through adversities of their own – rejection, doubt, and defeat – on their way to becoming legends.
These legends know that before you reach the pinnacle of the sport, you must have the will to push yourself to be the best at what you do, the soul of a warrior who refuses to stay down when they fall, and most of all, the passion that ignites the fire in their hearts to keep them going. As we all know, drama is a big part of any sport. But, for these legends, it’s a part of their journey – it’s their reality.
Simply put, the game wouldn’t be what it is today if it was played by quitters, and it is thanks in part to these legends and their achievements that we are inspired to make our own dreams come true. Theirs are the names we remember, and theirs are the names we thank.
With a height of 5-foot-3, Tyrone ‘Mugsy’ Bogues was told he would never be able to and play at the professional level. Driven, Bogues decided to focus on his strengths, (rather than on what he lacked): using his speed and relentlessness on both ends of the floor. He gave special emphasis to defense, where he was known for “mugging” the ball from whichever player he was guarding, thus earning him the nickname, ‘Mugsy.’
“I just wanted to play the game,” said Bogues in an interview he once had with CNN. “and I kept playing.”
With passion for the game fueling him to play on, Bogues was able to take his talents from the Baltimore projects to the world stage as the shortest player ever to play in the NBA – a league where, believe it or not, he became one of its greatest dunkers, and yes, one of its legends.
Kobe Bryant came into the NBA fresh out of high school at the age of 17. Drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, he was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would ultimately play his entire career.
With the Lakers, Bryant was one-half of the league’s most dominant one-two punches with center Shaquille O’Neal, winning 3 championships in 4 Finals appearances. However, when O’Neal left the Lakers to play for the Miami Heat, Bryant was faced with the challenge of winning a title without him. For years, the Lakers struggled with Bryant did what he does best to keep the team afloat – dominate games. It was during this phase where he became known for his legendary work ethic, inspiring legions of fans and players all over the world, and most of all, his teammates.
“Kobe modeled his behavior a lot about Michael Jordan,” said legendary coach Phil Jackson, who coached both Jordan and Bryant. “But, he went beyond Michael in his attitude towards training, and I know Mike would probably question me saying that, but he did.”
Bryant finally won his elusive 4th championship in 2009 and followed it up with a 5th the following year. Having pushed his body, heart and soul to the game of basketball, Bryant proved his naysayers wrong and rightfully earned his recognition as the greatest player to follow in the footsteps of Jordan.
Out of all the stars in basketball history, His Airness Michael Jordan is, perhaps, the biggest one. Dubbed the Greatest-of-all-time (G.O.A.T.), one need merely look at his list of accomplishments, highlights and accolades to realize why. However, prior to becoming the greatest the game had ever seen, Jordan had to face several adversities of his own before ascending to the throne.
Jordan’s competitiveness can be traced back to his childhood, which saw him growing up with older brothers in everything, and not just in sports! When he was in high school, Jordan was devastated to find that he didn’t make the varsity team. That day, he went home and cried.
“She said that the best thing I could do is to prove to the coach that he had made a mistake,” said Jordan on the advice his mother gave him on that fateful day. “And, leaving my disappointment behind, I started to improve my performance.”
He then accepted his role as a starter on the junior varsity team where he quickly rose to become its unquestioned star. It wasn’t long before he made it to the NBA and the rest, of course, was history. One of the most competitive players to ever set foot on the hardwood, Jordan’s legend is one that will inspire generations to come.
When Stephen Curry was drafted 7th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft out of Davidson College, many scouts are already praising him for his potent shooting ability and high basketball I.Q. However, many also doubted if he can succeed in the professional level. His body frame raised questions if he can keep up with the athletic guards that are currently dominating the league. His lack of explosiveness made others think that he couldn’t attack and defend at an elite level. Most of all, he was viewed as an unnatural point guard who most likely wouldn’t be able to run a team.
Today, everyone knows who Stephen Curry is – the current league MVP who is leading the defending champions Golden State Warriors to a record-breaking season. Individually, he has also been setting and breaking records left and right. NBA legends and analysts have also complimented Curry not just for his stellar individual performance, but also because of how he is single-handedly redefining modern basketball. It’s no secret that he is once again widely considered to end up winning back-to-back MVPs by season’s end. Also, it’s no secret how Curry has silenced all his doubters as he continued to put his heart and soul into the game he loves.