Athletes on major stages go through different stages in their careers like authors and artists. In these times, we witness their growth, see their egos and cheer their youth. Sometimes though, like all parts of life, there are things about people we just don’t like. We see people lead aimlessly or sometimes try to show off. We see the mistakes young people make and it is not approved. Over my life, I’ve seen countless athletes come and go. They start young and we watch them grow. I am at a part of my life when I am now seeing kids of my childhood idols become pros. During a game today, I made this assessment and now I want to share. This is a list of players I did not like as youngsters, but through time grew on me. I’ll explain as best I can and I hope you share your list too. 2011 has seen me change so much, I cannot even fully explain.
1. Tom Brady- Cheaters never win in my book. However, watching Brady with no premier receivers and three of his main targets standing an NFL short 6’1″, I saw the competitor in his soul and I found myself cheering. I even would go so far as to say, “Tom Brady is better than Peyton Manning.”
2. Dirk Nowitzki- Dirk is a 7foot forward who is in his range the moment he steps into a gym. In his younger years, I hated that he did not grab ten boards a game and his block average is usually below 2per game. What changed? He got his teeth knocked in. His aggression towards teammates changed drastically. He now puts it to the other team and is a team player. He gained my respect after he passed Larry Bird on the All Time Scoring list. Dirk, I’m proud to have seen your career.
3. Kobe Bryant- Anybody who has ever known me and my Celtic Pride knows that this is hard to say. Hard to write what I really feel, but here it is. Kobe has become the master of his trade. Once a young cocky kid who had no trouble telling people how great he was, Kobe grew up. He has me saying “Get em Kobe!” and I really meant it. In game 7 of last years NBA Finals (2010), Kobe took the title right from Boston’s hands. Though I was sad and hurt, the only thing I could say was, “That was a Jordanesque performance.” Kobe, I’ll never wear your jersey, but I can’t discredit what you have become.
4. Ravens Defense- So, as previously stated, I have done a lot of changing lately. I was a Steelers fan since I can remember. Something about their personnel decisions has made that a thing of the past. (No means No Ben!) When I was hurt by my teams’ lack of human rights judgement, I took a moment to review what parts of the game are most important. There stood the Ravens D. Ray, Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs. They have the most amazing unity between them. They are at war every game day with the next offense that cannot score. They preach positive living and do a lot of visible work in their community. After more than a decade of domination and the untimely passing of former NFL QB Steve “Air” McNair and Ed Reeds’ younger brother, the Ravens in the 2010-2011 season, pulled together and made another run into the post season. Barring a lock out, they will do it again and we can witness what “Team” really means.