The gift

Read this yesterday for the first time. It’s what the Duke Basketball Report wrote after last week’s game at Cameron:

Here’s something to kick around: the more talented you are, the less likely you are to be a great basketball player. The catch, of course, is how you define great.

If greatness is defined by physical ability, then the argument is moot. But if you look at basketball as a series of adaptations to physical challenges, then the less talented player has to make more adaptations to continue competing at a higher level than does the more talented player.

You could argue this case with Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain, Reggie Miller vs. Michael Jordan, or with Larry Bird or Magic Johnson vs. any number of their contemporaries.

You could, one supposes, start to make that argument about Davidson’s Stephen Curry.

Interesting. It made me think about something I read last summer when I was up in Davidson. Pat Jordan on Tom Seaver in his anthology:

The point is I could bring it faster than Tom. I always could. In Little League. In high school. Tom never had the luxury of my blinding talent in his youth. ‘I never threw hard then,’ he says. ‘I was aware of my physical limitations at fourteen. I had to adjust.’

Pitching became for Tom, at fourteen, not a physical activity, but a mental one. He learned how it felt to be shelled unmercifully one inning and then have to walk out to the mound to begin the next. ‘It’s a terrible feeling,’ he says. ‘You want to quit. You feel it’s hopeless. You have to force yourself to start again. Some guys can’t do that. They’re always fighting things beyond their control.’

Tom Seaver learned, earlier than most, to deal solely within the framework of his limitations. To circumvent those limitations. Unlike me, I raged against my limitations, and in the process, my very real talent suffered.

Which made me think of Stephen.

Lots of people have tried to identify the reasons for his immense appeal -- reasons, obviously, that go beyond points scored.

How he looks is on that list.

If he can do that, well, maybe I can do …

But what I like about this idea here is that it at least starts to demystify. It doesn’t stop at the notion of some nature-and-nurture tonic that makes Stephen able in some extra-special way to do what he does. No.

The suggestion here is that perhaps a gift can be what’s not there.

That it’s up to us how we choose to respond.

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