Good Read from Bleacher Report.
Against All Odds, The Story of San Antonio Spurs Center DeJuan Blair
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
No ACL in either knee.
Too undersized to play center in the NBA.
Grew up in a community that watched asbestos-laden plaster shut down his high school. A community that is losing people, jobs and historical landmarks.
Saying that starting center for the 45-9 San Antonio Spurs, DeJuan Blair, has traveled a tough road to this point of his career is a colossal understatement.
How has the 6' 7" NBA starting center continued to triumph against the odds?
Well, let us start by understanding Blair's career from the beginning. Raised by parents both playing basketball in their younger years, Blair was influenced from a young age. Blair grew up in Pittsburgh's Hill District, 600 yards (550 m) from the University of Pittsburgh campus, where he eventually attended college.
Blair played as a four-year starter at Schleney High School, ending his career with a record 57-0 within the Pittsburgh City League. However, during his four years in high school, Blair had undergone two surgeries on his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). During his surgeries, Blair's doctors did not purposely remove both his ACLs, but were unsuccessful at repairing the damaged ligaments and therefore might have caused the disappearance of the ACLs in their entirety.
Yes you read right, he lost ACLs in both knees. However, since the loss was one of a progression, Blair's muscles and other ligaments have adapted slowly to the added strain. As a matter of fact, Blair himself did not even know he did not have any ACLs.
"I don't even know," Blair said regarding knowledge of his lack of ACLs. "I just found out (in 2009)."
Although Blair led the country in rebounding at the University of Pittsburgh and was the Big East Co-Player of the Year and the only Pitt player in the last 50 years to make first-team All-American, the knowledge of Blair's lack of ACLs in both knees dropped his NBA draft position to the second round, 37th pick. Many NBA scouts and coaches considered this one of the best steals of the draft. Blair, on the other hand, was not happy.
"I play hard," Blair said. "I know that there are players way taller than me. I am one of the smallest centres in the league. But at the same time I think that I have one of the biggest hearts in the league. I am just going to keep playing hard."
"All the teams that didn't pick me, I'm with the Spurs now," Blair said. "I'm going to make them regret it."
And boy has he made teams regret it.
In 2009, Blair made his NBA debut in game one against the New Orleans Hornets; he finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds ranking second in ESPN's "Top 50" Rookie Ranking.
On January 13, 2010, Blair became the first rookie in Spurs history to record a 20–20 (at least 20 of any two statistical categories) since Spurs great Tim Duncan when he finished with 28 points and 21 rebounds (10 offensive rebounds) in a 109–108 overtime win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Due to his amazing start to his rookie year, Blair was invited to the Rookie Challenge, wherein he tallied 22 points and 23 rebounds, becoming the first player to have a 20–20 game in a Rookie Challenge and setting a Rookie Challenge record for rebounds. He won the Rookie Challenge MVP.
Yes, Blair had a great Rookie Season, but he also has been asked to do much more. In, the NBA business, the question is always "What have you done for me lately." Per 36 minutes this season, Blair has averaged 14.7 points and 12.4 rebounds so far. This has been enough to be invited to the Sophomore/Rookie Challenge at this year's NBA All-Star weekend.
But what's truly amazing about Blair, besides his basketball career, and why I personally am a fan (my second favorite player on the Spurs second to Manu Ginobili) is how he has not only overcome obstacles on the court, but his heroics and heart he shows off of the court.
The Hill district where Blair grew up and that provided Blair a childhood, a hoop and a dream, has been through tough times as of late.
"As far as tough neighborhoods go, it's the toughest in Pittsburgh," says University of Pittsburgh basketball coach Jamie Dixon.
"He'd go out and speak to a high school on his own," says Pittsburgh media relations director Greg Hotchkiss. "He'd go out and do community service on his own. You'll see DeJuan reaching out to the San Antonio community and you'll love him there. He's a unique individual. We really enjoyed him here."
While some professional athletes might have moved on from the past, Blair has brought the past with him. He has gone back to his neighborhood multiple times visiting schools, hanging out at the rec center and giving motivational speeches.
If there is such a thing as the "complete package," Blair could be just that. An inspiring package that fulfills the needs of the current first place Spurs, while at the same time a package that helps lifts the spirits of a strong-willed community in that of the Hill District.
Go Spurs FO Go! Grade A for key pick ups this summer!
If he really wants to inspire people and become a superstar, he needs to pull a Charles Barkley against Andrew Bynum and some of the other bigs who simply out rebound him, without even trying.
I won't bet against Dujan, but he needs to continue to prove people wrong.
The against all odds story continued the other night against the Lakers:
This quote from Tim Duncan...
(Thoughts on Bynum being just too long…)
“He got a lot of position rebounds tonight. He obviously is a big body and he had eight offensive rebounds, which really hurt us. All in all, we just did not play well and our focus was not there for whatever reason and we just did not play well tonight.”
Wonder who "WE" is in this article?
who else? the...team maybe? can't blame a loss on one individual. everyone was sucking that night. i don't remember tony parker playing well either. maybe tony parker is the "we?" there are other bigs on the team besides blair who didn't rebound well.
The thing is I still in my mind can't just believe how without ACL in BOTH knees an athlete with such weight is able to do what he does.... then again this is a ticking bomb like someone mentioned here... So who are we kidding?
Anyone else thinks DeJuan Blair will not be a Spur come next year if he somehow pulled a disappearing act such as the one he did recently vs the lakers in this PO?
I think Pop keeps playing him to try to encourage him and help him grow and try to increase his trade value...... Alas recently Blair's rebounding number had gone south.... Hope he picks it up!!! We need his Rebounds and Hustles.
Go Spurs Go
Go Spurs FO Go! Grade A for key pick ups this summer!
|Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)|