by Zettler Clay

I just re-watched “Barack & Curtis”Byron Hurt’s superb piece on Barack Obama and 50 Cent. This is a must see. The most powerful segment in the piece was the last quote by the white writer and educator Matt Birkhold. I won’t give it away, but he said something that is pivotal to understanding the unidentified – or unsaid – hypocrisy in media depictions about black culture inferiority and white supremacy. Check it out for yourself.

On a slightly different tune, there’s a story I must tell. I came across an interesting epiphany recently in the unlikeliest way: playing basketball. There was a three-on-three game being arranged, and I came into the gym cold. No warm up, just getting over a migraine the day prior and absolutely no confidence that I would perform well. But nevertheless, I played because of my unparalleled zeal for competition. The game commenced and predictably I missed my first three three-point attempts. But something strange happened: My teammate kept telling me to shoot.

Shot goes up. Brick. Again…brick. No change in his tone or response: keep shooting the d— ball was his note. And oddly enough, I caught fire. Whether it was five fingers in my face, ten fingers in my face or air, it didn’t matter. It was a showing that would have made Reggie Miller blush. We ended up winning three straight games and I went home satisfied, not yet realizing the magnitude of the lesson imparted to me that day. It wasn’t until later that night when I realized what happened. One, I had a teammate who believed in me more than I believed in myself; and two, I was actually a better shooter than I thought. The amazing part about the ordeal is that the encourager could really hoop. He could have easily gone into Kobe mode after I clanked the first few jumpers, try to win the game himself. But he didn’t. I don’t even think he realized exactly what he was doing for me that day.

Then like a ball waiting for a Albert Pujols swing, it hit me.

People become successful in life because of two reasons. One, they must have the skill, talent or know-how. They have to be good at whatever it is that they want. That’s a given. But two, most importantly, (person switch) you have to have SOMEBODY who believes in you, perhaps more than you believe in yourself. Lincoln, Obama, X, Gates, Kobe, The Beatles and even Tina Turner all had people in their lives who exhibited boundless faith in their ability to prosper in their fields. There is no self-made success. We, society, have a bigger role in the success of others than we can ever imagine. Talent is important, no doubt, but it is not nearly as important as environment (pushing one another) in shaping our full potential. However, no matter how hard somebody pushes us, we still have to “shoot the ball,” despite the inevitable misses. This is an intractable law of life: we cannot succeed until we find someone who believes in us. If we don’t have anybody in our life that fits that bill, then we must find somebody. But without that person, it just won’t happen for us.

It’s amazing how much is learned just from a simple game of three-on-three. You never know what life lesson will pop up on you when you are attuned to athletics. That’s why sports is the ultimate microcosm of life.