If you were like me on draft night, you had just one thought upon hearing that the Pacers had acquired Orlando Johnson with the 36th pick of the draft: “Who?”
While that may be the case, that doesn’t mean that Johnson isn’t worthy of donning the Pacers uniform. All it means is that most people don’t have the 411 on him. In an eye-opening article by Bob Kravitz the Indianapolis Star, we learn of who Johnson is — not on the court, but as a person. Then agains, sometimes that knowledge can help us understand the basketball side of things better than just staring blindly at statistics and judging based on raw numbers.
There are many people that are proud to be in the NBA. But there are some who truly comprehend the meaning of the dollars and the hard work it took to get them there. Not many players would be able to claim they understand that more than Orlando. He has lived a transient life, one where he has encountered tragedy after tragedy, obstacle after obstacle, and yet has persevered. His mother was murdered when he was two years old. He lost four family members in a horrific fire when he was six. When he was 11, He lost the grandmother who had cared for him since his mom perished.
And still he worked harder than ever to be successful without seeing himself as a victim.
“There’s people with way worse things that have happened to them,” Johnson said Tuesday. “I definitely have had some shortcomings in my life, but I just keep pushing, you know? Everything happens for a reason. I’m here for a reason. That’s how I believe, and that’s how I’m going to keep on believing.
Bob Williams, Johnson’s coach at the University of California Santa Barbara, has the utmost respect for one of the most impressive players, and men, he has ever taught the game to.
“He never let himself become a victim of his circumstances,” said Bob Williams, Johnson’s coach at UC Santa Barbara. “That’s one of the things that impresses me the most. He’s a man. He’s never let anything slow him down.”
When Orlando describes the adversity he has had to overcome, he said he has found inspiration to a commercial with Gilbert Arenas.
“One of my favorite commercials is that Gilbert Arenas commercial where he’s like, ‘Impossible is nothing.’ That’s how I feel. I feel like if I put my mind to it, I can do it. And that’s why I have the utmost confidence in myself and believe if I just keep doing what I’m doing, I’m going to be OK — and to keep counting my blessings.”
When considering that type of attitude with the blue-collar Pacers and their team mentality, this inspirational player, who I didn’t know of just a couple of weeks ago, may have already become a favorite of mine — without even playing one minute yet.
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