There was an interesting exchange Friday on the Dan Patrick radio show in which him and Keith Olberman discussed if Dennis Johnson’s death would in effect catapult him into the NBA hall-of-fame.
Their reasoning, very sound, was that sometimes people who really stood out in their sport, somehow get lost in the shuffle after they retire. This could happen for a number of reasons, be it a less then galvanizing personality, not super showy game, or just existing in the world of a super-nova. In DJ’s case, it would have been Larry Bird during the great Celtics run of about 20 years ago.
So, their point was that in a case like this, people all of a sudden remember that ‘Hey! that guy was pretty awesome!” Or “What happened to him anyways?"
So, in death, their life takes on a grander hue then it had.
Its something that strikes you because, in all of their brilliance you never actually stopped and fully digested their accomplishments in the same way you think of defining careers in sports like you do Larry Bird or Michael Jordan or Shaq or someone in that ilk.
They never seemed to capture the imagination or somehow became bigger then what they actually did. It’s a strange situation to be in. Think of someone like Vince Carter who really hasn’t done any to warrant any of the kudos that he gets, but, he has captured the imagination of viewing public with amazing displays of athletic talent, read dunks.
Then, someone who consistently performs at a higher level but never has had that defining moment, or raw athleticism or charisma to capture the hearts, someone like Ray Allen or maybe Mike Bibby.
This is a shame too, in that people who really deserve the praise and admiration get left by the wayside because something more exciting but with less substance comes along.
Think about the world of waterskiing for a second, are their people like this that slip under the radar of the collective consensus/
Granted its entirely different then a much, much, much more popular sport like basketball, but, those in the know forget the folks who really set the bar for our current stars.
We all know of someone like Sammy Duvall, who burned hotter then the sun for his career in waterskiing. Even ask someone who only has a cursory knowledge of the sport and chances are that they have heard of him.
Its of course well deserved, as he brought the sport to heights that it hasn’t reached since, but riding with him right there in the shadows was Carl Roberge. One of the most amazing skiers ever but no one seems to remember him.
He accomplished things in the ski world that haven’t been duplicated to this day…other then the records part of course, but, I don’t think that he is regarded with the same reverence or given the same due that he is…well…due.
Of course, he hasn’t died. So, that after death catapult hasn’t happened to him yet.
In a sport such as ours that is so niche anyways, its funny how some people may fall by the wayside despite their excellence.