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Struggles of an Athlete

  • Hayk Gyokchyan

Favorite Player of All-Time

Watching 'The Last Dance' highlights how big of an impact athletes have around the lives of people and aspiring athletes around the world. MJ was one of the icons that started a trend of people trying to mimic his game. Everybody wanted to be ‘like Mike’ and wear his shoes and hit the game winning jumper at the buzzer. Kobe actually perfected the art; evidence of this is everybody shouting ‘Kobe’ when tossing anything into something. Then came Iverson with his patented crossover... Curry with his long-distance 3s... these are just examples of stars who have changed the game. One of the main conversations in basketball has been who the greatest player of all-time is. Whether you think it’s MJ, or Lebron, or Kareem, or Kobe, or Bird, one thing is for certain. However, we all had a favorite athlete, who might not necessarily be the best player to ever play the game, whom we loved for some reason. Some liked players who had a style similar to theirs. Some liked an athlete who had physical resemblances to them. Some liked a player who was short like them. Some liked a player who was from the same country or city they were from. These players tend to have an unspoken impact maybe larger than that of the greats on the lives of many.

In high school and college, I was mostly playing the power forward position. My favorite thing was (and still is) to shoot 3s. At 6’8, I was never the fastest or most athletic player on any team I’ve been on. Living in the US at that time, I consider myself lucky because I was able to watch NBA games at reasonable hours on TV unlike in Lebanon where the games are at 3 or 4am. There was a certain player who just captivated me and every time I watched him, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I bought his jersey back in 2007 and wear it to this day. He, like me, was a tall white guy who was one of the firsts in his position to start pulling 3s. He was criticized for being slow and not being able to jump high, but was able to pave the way for many players playing the same position as him. He won a MVP award, and even ended up winning a championship by beating Lebron and company in Miami. At forward, 7-footer from Wurzburg Germany, number 41, DIRK NOWITZKI.

Dirk Nowitzki had a very rough start to his NBA career. His physical ability often left him overpowered by more athletic forwards in the NBA. Being the 9th pick in the draft, he did not meet his expectations in his rookie season. However, he steadily kept improving his game and excelling at things he did best in order to imprint his legacy as one of the best in his position. His patented one-leg fadeaway jumper was impossible to guard for someone his size and the high release that he had. Physical athleticism is a god given talent that has only a limited amount of room for improvement. No matter how much you train, you will not be able to jump like Vince Carter, or be physically dominant like Shaq, or have the hands and length of Kawhi Leonard. Dirk gave average players hope that they can perfect the craftiness of their game in order to succeed at high levels.

Instead of completely changing my game to be more physical, I kept improving my shot and working on crafty ways to finish day in and day out. Dirk made me believe it was ok for someone my size to play from the outside (6’8 might be average height for the NBA but it’s pretty darn tall for many other leagues around the world). I made my career because of my ability to be able to shoot sharply. I altered my shot slightly to have a quicker, higher release so that defenders might not contest it easily. Not being able to muscle up defenders in the post, I worked on a turn-around jumper and the ability to create a shot in tight spaces instead of blowing by defenders. Anyone who has played with me or seen me play can tell you I am one of the most unorthodox players out there, with the ability to make some crazy circus shots. My inspiration for playing the way I do came from Dirk, by analyzing his tapes and breaking down the ways he was able to score.

It is not even a question that many players are better than Dirk Nowitzki, but he will always be my favorite. He has had the biggest impact on my game especially since I was able to watch him growing up. Every athlete has a Dirk to my Nowitzki to whom they will always be grateful for. Thank you Dirk Nowitzki for changing my life.

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