To say that it’s been a long road for both the Indiana Pacers and Paul George to get to where they are today would be an understatement.
For George, he seemed destined to struggle and battle for every inch of success he could squeeze from his body. For some highly touted individuals, a future as college and NBA superstars are etched into their destiny with the races that occur for signatures like we’ve seen with frenzies over the commitments of the Anthony Davis‘ of the world. Yet, we also see prep stars that never live up to the hype such as the vastly overblown exploits of O.J. Mayo, once thought to be the next great player destined to shine in the league. Furthermore, we always seem to forget about the Renardo Sidney‘s of the world, players that essentially drop off the face of the Earth once the benefits of being that icon become more important internally than the game and the love for it that got them there.
With George, we need not worry about him being spoiled with adoration, molded by external forces or fueled by anything other than those two hoops, that stretch of hardwood, and most importantly that basketball that gives life to the whole arena.
In hindsight, it could have been the lack of interest that was expressed in him coming out of high school, something that resulted in him struggling through indecision with schools such as Santa Clara and Pepperdine before finally committing to Fresno State. It could have been the eyes that always seemed more interested in watching someone on the opposing team, someone that seemed more interested in evaluating someone other than himself. Whatever it was, the collective basketball community is long overdue on a standing ovation for the ones that made it all happen.
Without those doubters, George would not be the rising star of the NBA and the next true two-way superstar in the league.
Propelled by George, the Pacers now sit comfortably atop the Eastern Conference at 10-1, something that hasn’t been commonplace for quite some time. On one hand, much of the success stems on the collective team effort on both ends, with the presence of David West among others on the offensive end and Roy Hibbert anchoring the defense playing a huge part in the early season success of the team. That said, without a personality that exudes all of the swagger, confidence and intangibles needed to be displayed in the battle of minds that takes place between two truly great teams in a contest, those pieces mean nothing.
With George firmly cementing his place among the great players in the NBA and projecting just such traits for the Pacers, the birth of a great team, along with an MVP candidate have taken the league by storm this season.
With his spectacular performance against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, a game that saw him put up 35 points, five rebounds, five steals and make Carmelo Anthony, one of the greats in the league, look like the inferior player, those MVP chants will only grow louder as the season wears on.
In recent memory the award has routinely stemmed down to two necessities that required satisfaction in order to command such an accolade. Firstly, the player himself must be a truly great performer, a star in the league and someone who produces at an elite level statistically speaking. Secondly, that player must not only produce numbers and be the engine to team success but also the catalyst for the kind of success that is unmatched throughout the league.
Whether it was LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash or Derrick Rose, all of these players in the past decade have hurdled both obstacles on their way to the award.
Thus far, by averaging 24.4. points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists, George has made it past the starting gate without fault and even gotten to that first gate needing clearance neck and neck with his competition for the trophy. The question is: Will he finish the race as well as he started it?