COURTSIDE WITH COACH EDMONDS: In sports, “Greatness” stands alone. Why we don’t need someone to be ‘the next’…

I’m baaack!! Yes, it’s Coach Edmonds back for year three of Courtside with Coach Edmonds. I’m getting a late start this season due to being busy writing for other publications (which is fun for me). I hope that you’re enjoying seeing your favorite girls/boys’ teams play and that they’re doing well! I’ll be weighing in on my usual “behind the scenes” topics as we go through the season and get you thinking (as I always try to do) about what make Northeast Indiana so much fun to watch!

I have to be completely honest I’ve been struggling with the quality of play watching teams in our area as it seems that so many players are influenced by the collegiate and professional leagues that the (FUN)damentals are being over-looked.

Players try so hard to emulate what they see on TV and before you say “Coach that is what they’re exposed to,” I get it! We are looking to find our next “great one” to carry the mantle of all of those that have come before the LeBron James, Kobe Bryants, Steph Currys and Klay Thompsons, that players feel pressured to perform at levels that they may not be ready for…yet; not just in basketball but in SPORTS period!

Recently had a spirited debate (no, it was an argument!) regarding who I thought were the BEST players were of All-Time in the respective 4 major professional sports: football, basketball, baseball and hockey. I had to share this with you Courtside readers. I gave my list of names and tried to explain why I thought that the various players that I chose were who I thought were the best, and again “tried”  to give supporting reasons as to why these were MY choices. My friend was not trying to hear anything that I was saying and then said “Man, you’re picking all those OLD dudes, how are they the best?”

This is why I chose the word “spirited” to begin this particular story  because trust me when I say, there are some other words that could have come into my description of our “verbal sparring.” In today’s first Courtside I want to share why we argue and try our absolute best to defend our sports hero’s and though they may be aging (or in some cases deceased), we will protect their legacy to the bitter end and dispute with ANYONE that tries to taint their contributions, as we define who the best REALLY are in professional sports (though I’ll lean towards basketball in this particular piece).

So many athletes and coaches have created such an enormous impact on their sport that no one can rival.

Whether it is through their work done off the field, or just dominance on it, there are a few things that can make people iconic and be remembered forever.  When we look at iconic sports figures there are names that just jump out at you that (in my opinion) if someone tries to debate them with me, I just say “GTS” (which means Google that, um… Stuff.)

Can you really dispute Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Ted Williams, Serena Williams or Wayne Gretzky for what they did to change their respective sports while they dominated their era? These athletes showed a skill and proficiency in their sport that is unmatched by today’s athletes as they clearly separated themselves from the rest of their contemporaries. The problem that we have as fans is that we’re always trying to find someone in todays era that is comparable to them, which will support our argument when it becomes heated over a cold sweet tea or Pepsi. 

I think that the use of the word “Greatness” has evolved almost to the point of a single person’s definition of it and how strongly they’re willing to defend the interpretation of it. But what is it that really makes them special? Is it measured as a pure numbers game or are there outside factors? If it’s numbers, what do they consist of? Is it the number of championships or their individual statistics?

The number of championships under their belt seems to be the general measuring stick when you get into bar debates with friends and family or when determining who’s great, but then there’s so many players that will get left out! Great players like Allen Iverson, Barry Bonds, Charles Barkley, OJ Simpson and Barry Sanders are just a few of those players that statistically could enter in the arena when discussing ALL-TIME greats but would have to exit out that very same door quickly when talking team championships because they have NONE. 

“Sports today have evolved and so has the evolution of how we define greatness” ~Marc Wilson The ORION newspaper

 Man! This statement is so true! We often hear people say things like “This person is going to be great” or “Greatness is in their future,” o often that it makes me think that it’s like jellybeans: it depends on “what flavor you like when you reach in the bag” because that’s what you’ll pull out most times!

My take on all of it is this: why can’t we enjoy the greatness of today’s athletes AND those that came before them? I recently heard Steven A. Smith (from ESPN) loudly proclaim, “Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns is the next Kobe Bryant with what he’s shown this past season!” I was like… WHAT!? He hasn’t even won a championship yet! But then I had to change my thoughts to “He’s entitled to his own opinion even though he must be crazy for saying that!”  

Greatness is so subjective; I think that we should just enjoy these athletes while we can and respect them for how well they do it PERIOD. Let them be who THEY are and not try to link them to the past but keep them in the present. Now if you want to argue, oops, I meant debate me on this, then I’ll see you in the gym soon and I’ll buy the popcorn and Gatorade while we debate once again who the greatest ever is once again! 

Keith Edmonds is a veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003. Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear monthly during basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

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