Sometimes when we consider a basketball player it's easy to get lost in abstraction. The player fills a role, or a cap number, or he provides a specific statistical profile. He becomes an asset (or a detriment). Sometimes, usually after a long season, it is useful to step and realize that player is a person, one building an ongoing life, one coming from a specific history.
Over at the official site of the National Basketball Player's Association, there's a tremendous feature on the Raptors Norman Powell. It's by Jared Zwerling, but written in the voice of Powell himself. And let me tell you, it tells quite the tale.
The piece recounts Powell's early life, a time filled with struggle, to the burgeoning of his basketball talent, to the hard work he does now to build himself into the player he wants to be. Powell talks about some of the models for his game (names like Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook come up). There's also talk of his time so far with the Raptors and the impact players like Kyle Lowry -- himself an underdog -- and DeMar DeRozan have had on his development. It's also fun to read about Jerry Stackhouse, NBA coach.
By the end, Powell reflects on his mission to work hard, to dedicate it all to his family, and more specifically his uncle Raymond. There's a message of selflessness woven in here, of emotional history being paid off in the future to be enjoyed and shared with others. It's touching in its way.
I don't know, maybe it's the first person voice, or the simple power of the message, but this piece really hit me. Many basketball players, many people, have things they carrying around with them -- things that keep them going, striving, achieving. It's sometimes hard to see that. And sometimes, after we set aside all the numbers, and the money, and the glitz and glamour of the NBA -- to say nothing of some of the other wild and dark things happening in today's world -- it's nice to remember.