The following is a guest post written by Preston Raulerson:
A hundred thousand words have been written of Dwight Howard, and the same of Otis Smith, Stan Van Gundy, and the Magic’s ownership. An equal amount has been burned between the contracts (and validity of their existence, even) of Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Duhon, and Jason Richardson. All of this is as it should be: the Orlando Magic organization sits at a dangerous intersection between relevance and risk, with the disoriented ego of their co-captain directing traffic.
Co-captain. There are two captains for the Magic. One is a 2004 first round draft pick that’s played his entire career with the Magic, and so is the other. Jameer Nelson has been a foundational cog for everything Dwight and the Magic have accomplished these last 7 years. This is the All-Rookie Team Jameer Nelson, the All-Star Jameer Nelson. The Naismith Player of the Year Jameer Nelson. The Wooden, The Oscar Robertson, The Rupp Trophy Jameer Nelson.
This is also the Broken Jameer Nelson. The Wronged, the Rejected, the Unconsidered Jameer Nelson.
Often in sports, we have a few categories of individuals and their plights that we can generalize into. LeBron is used as the example (fairly or not) of a player whose talent and ability have never seriously been questioned. Shaq fits in there too, along with hoards of others who ooze with raw talent, ability, and size. There are those whose talent and ability are slightly less elite, but that have a chiseled mental function that they’ve used to create a more complex but just as undeniable skill set (Ray Allen and his shot, Steve Nash and his passing, Tim Duncan and his footwork). There are other stereotypes, handfuls of them, that can be used to try and generalize what Dwyane Wade has, what Paul Pierce has gone through, and the peculiarities of Larry Bird’s success.
Oh, but The Runt.
The Runt transcends basketball. The Runt is familiar to each of us, and at every level of competition we’ve experienced. The player who is identified by his or her size, but who is defined by their fight to eclipse it. Those rarest of athletes whose success at each level is not through their natural physical gifts, but in spite of them. Think about them now, the ones that you surely know and the impression they left on you. Each of them have played the subject in a sentence that mentioned “just a few more inches”, or “a little more bulk”, and of course those comments that wished for a bit greater natural speed, innate quickness. Those players where the premature terminations of their careers came off the decisions of coaches and recruiters. All of them fight, and all of them seem to win those games they play…and all of them seem to be ended not by the games they lose, but by the ones they aren’t invited to.
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