Greatness. The pinnacle, the peak, the goal, the standard. So often we use this status as the bar for the things that we do in life. How often do you hear someone say, “I want to be great.” How often do we describe someone that we are completely infatuated with as “great” or “greatness?” How would a Michael Jordan fan describe him? Muhammad Ali? LeBron James? Serena Williams? Diana Tarausi? One word, Greatness. But how does one attain such a stature? Isn’t there a starting point? A launchpad or even a beginning point? Like anything in life you must start with no experience or as some call it, a novice. But how do we know exactly who will achieve greatness? Honestly no one wants to sit around waiting to see who will win American Idol, or the NBA Rookie of the year, Best new artist, or your heart. Which is why when we look to find greatness prematurely we turn to one thing.
Potential. A word that can be used in many contexts but has one meaning. Having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. Now that’s where it gets tricky. See by definition potential has the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. Let’s look at this closer shall we? The first part of this is “having or showing the capacity.” Well that’s very broad because almost any and everything has capacity but lets move on. The next important piece is “to become or develop into something.” Again broad. Why? Think about it, almost everything in the world can become or develop into something. Even water can become ice. But is that something going to be bad? Or good? Or both? Maybe none? Finally we have “in the future.” Now this can be problematic becasue the future can literally be anything past the present. One second from now(which passed already) or 1,000 years. Needless to say the word potential alone is just broad. Which leads me to my main question.
Why. Why do we so often seek potential instead of what we want that potential to be? Let’s take a look at the NBA. Every year there is an NBA draft in which 60 players are drafted with 30 teams and 2 rounds. Sometimes teams trade picks so everyone may not pick that year and so forth. There is one thing that never changes. There is always a first pick, this is the pick everyone focuses on because this is the player who is believed to either: have the most potential, currently be the best player, or both. The hard part is judging that potential because it’s nearly impossible to look at someone and say “you’re a future Hall of Famer.” Every year in sports we have teams who have assembled these high picks like 1st and 2nd overall due to their recent lack of success or good management. These are teams like the 76ers or better yet, the Celtics. Why do we look at these teams and procclaim that it may be their year? We start the year giving them all the benefit of the doubt because we love the Potential.
Love. By definition it is an itense feeling of deep affection. I have a story…If you don’t mind. I once had a friend named Jill(fake name) who had been dating a guy named Jack(also a fake name). Everytime Jill spoke to me about Jack she had an issue with him. Typically it was things like him not showing enough affection, not being emotional, or even him being insensitive to some of the things that she was feeling. It was interesting though because she would always say “it’s frustrating becasue I know what he could possibly be.” So one day I asked her the question that so many people shy away from when it comes to anything potential related, “do you actually like Jack or do you love who he could potentially be? If it’s who he could be, why are you willing to take such a big risk rather than find someone who is what you want at this moment?” Her answer was that she fears she’ll never find “that person” so often times she’ll settle on a persons potential. To me, this answers the question. A lot of our crave for potential comes from a sense of desperation and in some cases a feeling of accomplishment. By choosing someone who fills out their potential we feel accomplished or satisfied. But is there anything wrong with choosing something or someone off of what you know for sure and then giving them a chance to grow? Steph Curry was the 7th pick of the 2009 draft. Crazy right? 2 time champ, 2 time MVP in only 8 seasons so why wasn’t he the first pick? In many eyes he didn’t have any potential because he didn’t have a defined position. Instead of drafting him because he was a great shooter, teams passed and chose other guys ahead of him. Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, Ricky Rubio, Johnny Flynn, Tyreke Evans, and James Harden. Of those 6 players only one has even come close to the production of Steph Curry. James Harden, who some argue could’ve won MVP the last two years. It just goes to show you how tricky potential can actually be. Why people bank on it so heavily? We will never have a fact for an answer but lets hope you don’t miss your Michael Jordan, drafting Sam Bowie.