The spring semester has sprung upon us yet again, signifying a fresh start and new beginnings for many students, and for me, the stimulating journey as sports editor of this momentous publication.
While this has been a long time coming for me and something that I always envisioned myself doing when I set foot on USC’s campus, it wasn’t always the dream.
Rather, when I was a kid, I aspired to be a professional athlete, specifically the one and only Kobe Bryant. Yes, the one dubbed “The Black Mamba” and, who just a month ago passed up Michael Jordan for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
When I initially shared my dreams with my elders, I got the answer one would expect from a pragmatic adult: “Yeah, that’s great and all to dream big, son, but do you know the chances of you actually becoming a professional basketball player?”
Sadly, they were right, as only a handful of kids ever make it to the professional game, and though the statistics of the reality continued to make more and more sense as I grew up, I never let the dream of being like Kobe go.
Though I couldn’t be like the 16-time NBA all-star on the court, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t, one day, be able to capture his competitive mentality and strong work ethic off the court.
This inspiration came to mind during my first year of high school when like the great Michael Jordan, according to legend, I was cut from the freshman basketball team.
Not being able to find your name on a list, believing it has to be there somewhere while watching your friends celebrate joyously, is perhaps one of the hardest things I’ve had to experience in my young life.
But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? And from that day on, I had a chip on my shoulder, knowing that I had something to prove, not only to my coaches, my peers and my family, but also to myself.
Following Bryant’s most recent record-setting performance, he took to The Player’s Tribune in a first-person editorial called “Zero.” The title represents the zero points, which Bryant scored the summer he played in his hometown summer league at the young age of 12.
In the piece, Bryant described how he was putting his family to shame, namely his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, who played professional basketball domestically and overseas.
Oddly enough, Kobe wrote that he even considered giving up basketball before he too realized the fact that his idol, MJ, used his sense of failure to fuel his fire to make certain that those feelings never arose again.
In the words of the five-time NBA champion, “I decided to take on my challenge the same way he [MJ] did.” And so did I.
Using that same can’t-quit mentality and persistence, I strutted into tryouts a year later and this time around, my name was, indeed, on the list on the gym door.
Aside from basketball, it’s this determined frame of mind that has gotten me to where I am today.
Full disclosure, I was hoping to be in the seat I am today at the DT one whole year ago. It felt like deja vu when I scrolled up and down an email, and yet again, couldn’t find my name.
Here, I was presented with a different situation, but a very familiar foe.
Sure, I could accept the notion of failure again, but I couldn’t accept not trying. And one year later, here I am, simply because, in the words of the late and great NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano, I never gave up. That inspiration to keep pressing on and attempting to achieve something I had already once failed at derived from what I had learned from the experiences of world-class athletes.
We often look up to superstars like Kobe and MJ not because of their prowess on the court, but rather for who they are as individuals. None of these athletes is without their flaws, blemishes and even legal issues, but as Hannah Montana puts it, “nobody’s perfect.” That’s what makes them like each and every one of us at the end of the day.
But, don’t get me wrong, 99 percent of us, including myself, will never ever be on the same pedestal as either of these legends, regardless of how hard we work. We still have the opportunity and ability, however, to incorporate into our everyday lives the mentality that allowed them to rise to greatness and legendary status into our everyday lives.
I’m not a professional athlete, but you don’t have to play sports to be like one.
Just take for example the parallel drawn between Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul and his fictional twin brother, Cliff Paul, in State Farm Insurance’s recent advertisement campaign. Of course, Chris dishes out his assists on the basketball court to the likes of Blake Griffin, while Cliff, a State Farm agent, assists his customers with their problems out in the field. Evidently, both have assisting in their blood, but each uses their talent in different realms.
Even for someone whose life is engulfed in sports, the concept of employing bits and pieces of an athlete’s arsenal into mine hasn’t always been easy to grasp, but it’s finally started to come to fruition for me as I begin my tenure as sports editor of the Daily Trojan.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to dazzle you with my lightning-quick crossover or lethal 3-point shooting on the court this spring. I’ll leave that job to freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin and the rest of the USC men’s basketball team.
But I am hoping that I will be fortunate enough to hit a few last-second jumpers, acrobatic shots and clutch free throws in print during my time at the DT.
Darian Nourian is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Persian Persuasion,” runs Thursdays.