“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth
I count this as one of my favorite quotes. Babe Ruth is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. If anyone could skirt by on talent alone it was him. Yet, he knew the value of hard work. He knew that no matter how talented he was, it still took hard work and determination to win games. Basically, you have to want it more than the other person.
When you get someone as talented as Babe Ruth who also has an intense desire to win and the wherewithal to put in the effort it takes to win consistently, you get a deadly combination. Think about Michael Jordan. He never lost. He was the most talented guy on the floor, but he also wanted it more than anyone else.
I often find myself admiring those with less talent, but still give maximum effort. This usually defines quirky underdogs, teams or players that are overlooked on paper but make particular plays on the field or court to put themselves in position to win despite their talent disadvantage. I marvel at how their sheer will and determination keeps them in games they probably have no business being in.
This brings me to a personal favorite of mine, the 2014 Phoenix Suns.
Many thought they were intentionally trying to lose to get a better draft pick. Vegas pegged their preseason win total at less than 20 wins. Yet we are 70 games into the season and the Suns are 41-29. Their record is even more impressive when you consider they play in the Western Conference, a conference loaded with talented teams.
What impresses me most about the Suns is not only their effort, but their ability to fight back when all seems lost. Midway through the season they lost their best player, Eric Bledsoe, to injury. Up in to this point, the Suns had surprised the league. They had one of the league’s 10 best records, with many of their wins coming against elite teams.
After it was announced Bledsoe would miss six weeks, the Suns lost four consecutive games. They were again counted out. Yet the Suns responded by blowing out the league’s then best team, the Indiana Pacers, twice in a span of a week. They won 9 of 12 games. Pundits started to marvel at the staying power of the Suns.
Recently, the Suns started to fade again. Bledsoe returned but the team started losing games they would have won in the past. The schedule was getting tougher. Teams were starting to figure them out. Young players like Miles Plumlee, who had never before played extended minutes, were getting tired.
This brings me to today. The Suns, a game out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, traveled to Minnesota to play the Timberwolves. They were down by 20 points in the second quarter. They had surrendered 73 points at halftime. It looked like they were going to be dealt a crushing blow to their playoff hopes.
Yet they rallied. They outscored the Timberwolves 34-17 in the 4th quarter for yet another improbable win a season full of them.
There have been many times throughout the season that I’ve been ready to write the Suns off. They lacked talent. They lacked experience. They lacked the defensive ability to beat good teams. Yet they haven’t lacked desire, or effort or the will to win.
Every time I’ve been ready to write the Suns off, they’ve bounced back. I admire it.
Although we all love those with amazing talent, we will always respect those that give maximum effort. Only a select few have the natural gifts to succeeded, but everyone has the ability to work hard and not give in and not give up no matter how hard it gets.
So I won’t write the Suns off anymore. They deserve that.
Because it’s really hard to beat a person (or a team full of them) that never gives up.
Photo courtesy of the Big Lead.