Greatness is Often Defined by the Adversity One is Willing to Overcome
What it takes to become the greatest of all time from an athletic perspective
Greatness is not simply distributed.
Greatness is not evaluated based on one particular measure.
Greatness is not a mark one can receive on an exam.
Greatness is not tangible.
But although it is not tangible in the sense that you cannot touch or feel it, greatness is tangible in the sense that it can be witnessed.
And ladies and gentlemen, for the last decade plus in the world of sports, we have witnessed greatness.
But what does it take to become great?
Who can become great?
Why can some become great and others cannot?
While simple attributes may come to mind especially in the world of athletics — physicality, speed, agility, intelligence — there is something else that sticks out like a panda at a petting zoo.
This something is not a particular skill and it is not a certain training regimen.
This something is a particular experience.
Nothing has been hand delivered to these athletes, and they have not been the players, or more importantly people they are today for their entire lives. They have experienced some sort of setback, some sort of challenge, and some sort of struggle that has forced them to be gritty, forced them to be persistent, and forced them to be resilient.
These people are lifelong growers and lifelong learners. They take nothing for granted and earn all that they deserve.
These athletes are the GOAT’s in their respective arenas and these athletes have struggled forward.
The greatest female tennis player of all time, Serena Williams has encountered numerous career and personal setbacks that would deter any ordinary human from accomplishing their goals.
As a child, she practiced on the dangerous streets of Compton, often interrupted by gang violence.
As an African American, she infiltrated an almost entirely white sport from the moment she stepped on the court and overcame countless racist comments.
As a member of a highly scrutinized family, she overcame the horrifying murder of her sister in the mid 2000’s.
As a woman, she overcame pregnancy to still win a major title while 8 weeks pregnant, and is now back on tour only 9 months after the birth of her daughter!
Serena Williams is one of the all time greats in tennis, sports, and overcoming anything that comes in her way.
The LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan debate will forever infatuate the sports world. But no matter whose side you’re on, there is no question that LeBron deserves GOAT consideration.
Despite being in the limelight since his early teens, LeBron’s life was certainly not as easy as it seemed growing up.
LeBron grew up in a single parent household, being raised just by his mother.
LeBron was temporarily suspended from his high school team for supposedly receiving gifts, only to come back and win a state championship.
LeBron became one of the most hated players in the NBA after leaving his hometown to join a dream team.
LeBron has faced the pressure, he has faced tremendous adversity, and he has embraced it, cherished it and thrived in it.
This one is the hardest to write because I am a New York Giants fan. But, it is tough, better yet foolish to dispute that Tom Brady is not one of the best players in NFL history.
His longevity, more than his stats, more than his trophies, is one of the most impressive achievements in sports history. For a position that demands physical and mental exhaustion every single performance of the year, the fact that this man has been doing it for 15+ years is astonishing. But like Serena and LeBron, Brady also has not had the easiest path.
His freshman year at Michigan, he was the 7th QB on the roster, just having lost 25 pounds after suffering from appendicitis.
He was the 199th pick in the NFL draft and 4th quarterback on the Patriots roster, only to get his chance to start due to his work ethic and a string of injuries.
He faced suspension and legal action after the infamous “Deflate Gate” scandal.
Brady is a true gamer. He exemplifies every single attribute of a person who loves and obsesses over what he does. Even with all of these setbacks, he still comes back each and every season at the ripe old age of 40, and impresses more and more.
Rarely will you find a celebrity, an athlete, or a human being that has been handed their life on a silver platter. Sure, some are born into wealth and others get lucky, but nobody out there will be hidden from the unexpected, tortuous, and unpredictable journey we call life.
Each and every person must react, respond, and move forward past anything that may stand in their way.