Greatness That Inspires

ESPN First Take Host Stephen A. Smith said, “Steph Curry is the greatest shooter that God ever created.” On December 15, 2021, Steph Curry surpassed Ray Allen’s all-time 3-point shooting record, completing 2974 3-point shots in just 789 games. Now, Steph Curry is the greatest shooter in NBA history. The 3-point GOAT (Greatest of All-Time).

Steph is 33-years old, playing in his 11th NBA season. Without a doubt, he will sink more 3’s in his future NBA Hall-of-Fame career. Perhaps the record will be 5000 when Steph retires? Who knows? Obviously, records are designed to be broken. Still, I’m guessing that Steph’s record will stand for many years to come. He is the generational talent.

Steph personifies greatness. Perhaps he’s the greatest shooter that God has ever made. I’m with Stephen A. All that said, Steph trains religiously every day working on his shot. Working on his greater-than version.

Steph’s game has altered the NBA Basketball paradigm. Do the math. 3-point shots are a premium over 2-point shots. Over his entire career, Steph has shot over 40% from the 3-point range. So basically when Steph crosses the basketball half-court line, he’s the genuine scoring threat. He can sink 3’s from the parking lot. Well, he can make 3-point shots from beyond 35 feet. That transformed the game. Steph wreaks havoc upon opposing defences. Although he doesn’t really dunk the ball much, he’s money on layups at the basket. Steph’s got amazing handles. No one moves like Steph without the ball positioning for an open shot.

Steph stands at 6’ 3”. He’s not 6’ 9”, 250 plus pound Lebron James, who can drive downhill on any defender. He’s not 6’ 11″ with the 7’ 6” wingspan of Kevin Durant (KD), who’s the imposing physical mismatch, shooting over any defender. Yet Steph shoots 3-point shots like no one else on Planet Earth. That inspires.

For the kid who’s not growing up to be the physical phenoms like Lebron or KD, they can work on their shooting, on their 3-point shots. Perhaps one day, they can play in the NCAA. Maybe, even play in the NBA. Steph transformed the game of basketball in creating that possibility for others. Seemingly ordinary players have the possibility of becoming extraordinary. That inspires young kids on the playground, in high school to practice their shots. Put in the work. Grind it out.

In the bigger picture, greatness ain’t about being the GOAT, about being better than everyone else. Greatness transcends when it inspires others to put in the work, to just train to become the best versions of themselves. Just saying.

Over 30 years ago, I began training in Aikido with the late Mizukami Sensei. I had practiced Aikido as a kid when Mom forced me in 7th grade. That was a distant 15-year break. As a young boy growing up at home, Dad terrified me. Whatever I did or didn’t do wasn’t good enough for Dad. I got that I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t strong enough, either. Consequently, I spent so many years of my adult life proving that I was strong enough, that I was good enough.

Like Dad, Mizukami Sensei was Nisei, 2nd generation Japanese. Sensei was Old School. Where I never had the space to be myself with Dad, Sensei said, “Just train. It’s not like you have to get somewhere.” I was free to be me. I put in the work. Just train.

Where Dad yelled out of anger and the fear of not knowing how to raise me, Sensei yelled, knowing that I could be better, become greater. The distinct difference. When I got frustrated training for Shodan (1st degree black belt), Ishibashi Sensei said, “It’s your time to get yelled at.” I got it. Listen to Sensei from mushin (the empty mind). Be present. Follow instruction. Just train.

The late NBA legend Kobe Bryant said, “I don’t have a problem with people who don’t have my work ethic. I have a problem with people who expect to be great but don’t put in the work.” I had to grind it out for what was meaningful to me.

When I got promoted to Shodan, I said, “Thank you, Sensei.” Sensei smiled, “I didn’t do anything. You did it.” Sensei was the humblest man that I knew on Planet Earth. Yeah, he was at least half right. Just saying.

Mizukami Sensei taught me Aikido and what it is to be a good man. His life was about service to his students, service to others. Sensei inspired me to be the best martial artist that I could be. He inspired me to be the best person that I could be, as well. I continue to work on being the greater man. Just train.

About 10 years ago, Sensei watched 14-year old Lukas and I practice iriminage (clothesline to the head technique). Sensei said to Lukas, “Show me.” I attacked. Lukas threw me solidly to the Aikido mat. Sensei smiled, “You’re a better teacher than me.” Surprised, Lukas and I stared at each other. I smiled, “I don’t think so.” Sensei walked over to help other students.

That was meaningful to me. I wanted to be great like Mizukami Sensei. Sensei graciously brought me up to his level. Many have said of NBA GOAT Michael Jordan, “I want to be like Mike.” Well, I wanted to be like Sensei.

I’m Godan (5th-degree black belt). Ishibashi Sensei promoted me. He said, “It’s from Mizukami Sensei. He wanted to promote you before he passed.” Nothing but mad love and respect to the late Mizukami Sensei and Ishibashi Sensei. Their greatness continues to inspire me to work on myself.

In the bigger picture, I don’t define my legacy. Others with whom I’ve shared the journey shall define my legacy. I hope that they might be kind. By definition, I’ll never know my legacy. Just saying.

I’ve been honored to participate in the legacy of the greatness of the late Mizukami Sensei. Sensei had dreamt that the world becomes a better place through Aikido. I perpetuate Sensei’s legacy, to take the glancing blows for what’s meaningful in life. I pass on his greatness to others. Perhaps, that inspires others to inspire future generations. A meaningful generational legacy. Amen.


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