Our love for sports and affinity for watching ESPN's First Take and Fox Sports 1's Undisputed has turned everyday fans who lack the charisma and commentary skills of Shannon Sharpe and Stephen A Smith into full time unqualified debaters. An unqualified debater is an individual who consistently enters conversations about the greatness of others with an agenda of diminishing their accomplishments in order to convince their audience or echo chamber of idiots that their opinions are valid. In many instances, who we favor as the "Greatest of All Time" aligns with our preferences, insecurities or worst of all; our fear of pursuing personal greatness for ourselves.
Let's take a look at how our preferences, insecurities and fear of failure impacts how we elevate or diminish the greatness of others.
Even though we hate to acknowledge it, our personal preferences influence and inform how we consume and assess greatness. For example, when discussing all-time great NBA Point Guards, I tend to mention undersized and brash point guards because their play on the court aligns with how I think the game should be played. I admire toughness and players who play through minor contact with the intent of scoring, instead of those that emulate Ricky when he got shot in Boyz N The Hood in the hopes of coaxing the referees into blowing a whistle. My mindset of playing through a foul unless blood is drawn, dates back to my youth when I played basketball every day in Briarwood; the neighborhood that largely shaped my perspective on how basketball should be played. Acknowledging this about myself, makes it crystal clear why Isiah Thomas is my favorite point guard.
During my youth, watching Isiah Thomas play was akin to reading about David slaying Goliath with a rock and a slingshot. In my eyes, Thomas accomplished what seemed impossible. He was brash, confident and fearless as he took on all challengers and led his Pistons to victories over Giants (Jordan's Bulls, Bird's Celtics and Magic's Lakers). Perhaps my small stature makes me appreciate those who embrace their Napoleon Bonaparte similarities to make history more than I should. However, my appreciation and preference for watching Isiah Thomas play, would never make me delusional enough to wake up every day and proclaim that Isiah is definitively greater than Magic Johnson or Oscar Robertson. In my younger days, when I played basketball recreationally, it would have made a ton of sense to emulate Oscar's grace around the rim while merging Isiah's fearlessness with Magic's flare for finding open teammates into my game. Can you imagine how further along we would be in life if we learned to appreciate the difference faces of greatness? Can you fathom how much more we would enjoy the games that we claim to love if we learned to acknowledge that our preferences, and who we deem to be the greatest don't have to be synonymous?
So, beyond preferences, what else informs how we view and appreciate greatness? Our good 'ole insecurities.
Personal Insecurities and Fear of Failure:
Our personal insecurities flare up in a myriad of ways. In many instances, our insecurities incite passionate debates where we belittle one great player to elevate the player that embodies the mindset and skills that we wish we possessed. We start to gravitate towards nebulous sayings like "killer instinct," "alpha male leader" and "love for the game," even when our perception of these attributes doesn’t align with the facts.
You ever notice how passionate people become when debating who's better, Kobe, Jordan or LeBron? Number 1, why does debating the greatness of those that have already achieved the impossible evoke so much emotion? None of us are related to Kobe, MJ or LeBron as far as I know. None of us have personal insight into the various elements that have contributed to their greatness. Yet, on a daily basis, instead of waking and figuring out how we can be great, we spend countless hours diminishing the greatness of LeBron to elevate Kobe; or living in a made-up reality where MJ never missed a shot or lost a playoff series to ensure "His Airness" remains indefinitely suspended in the air like his logo.
What is the root cause of the raging fury and embarrassing amount of emotion that we invest in debating, diminishing and upholding the greatness of others; instead of pursuing our own greatness? Insecurities. If you know and believe something to be a fact, you don't have to constantly debate it, because "you know what you know."
MJ's hall of fame resume is cemented in stone, but is your resume even good enough to knock on the door of the room that houses the legendary businessmen, artists, engineers, doctors and entrepreneurs that have accomplished the dream that you fear pursuing? Our insecurities are the enemy of progress and continue to be the primary reason we consistently diminish the greatness of others. It's our way of telling ourselves, see look, that individual with all the talent in the world missed a game winning shot. He's not as great as everyone else says he is. If I had half his talent, I would always win, and never miss an important shot. You are partially correct. You would never miss a game winning shot...because you don't ever intend to shoot a shot that matters.
What's stopping you from putting in the work and implementing a strategy that propels you to greatness? Are your insecurities and fear of failure immovable roadblocks that have convinced you that you aren't capable of becoming the best version of yourself? When you look in the mirror do you see the insecurities and fear of taking the last shot that you conveniently project on all-time greats? When a legend passes up a challenging shot in favor of sharing the glory of hitting a game winning shot with a wide-open teammate, does he lack "killer instinct" or is he simply wise enough to know that the probability of making a wide-open shot is greater than throwing up a prayer while draped by defenders? Perhaps that is what separates those that have achieved greatness from the rest of us. The great ones don't allow their fear or insecurities to dictate which shots or passes they make. They trust their instincts and live with the results of what comes with the pursuit of being great.
In closing, imagine getting to Heaven and proceeding to rant and rave to God that Jesus turning water to vino wasn't that impressive because Moses parted the Red Sea. What type of sense does that make?
If you are ready to stop critiquing greatness and ready to pursue your own greatness, start your journey today by purchasing my novel Knewgoat.