An ode to Mario West

It was probably time for Mario West to go. He has served whatever point he had come to serve for the Atlanta Hawks. New reasons could not be justified to keep him because no new reasons existed. Mario was the same guy he had always been, a man who out hustled everyone and out skilled no one. And the truth of the matter is that as the Hawks become a better team, they should not need Mario, they cannot need Mario. Elite teams play at a higher energy level all the time. The whole team does. They are never going to match Mario, but as the Hawks improve, his one skill should become markedly less noticeable. If the Hawks need Mario to provide energy, they are not the team anyone wants them to be.

But leaving that basketball reality, which is not that hard to do because Mario West has refused to live in any kind of basketball reality for going on seven years, all we Hawks fans can do is sit back and say thank you. What's done is done, and what we have left is a memory of a professional athlete who had the one skill we want every little kid playing any organized sport to have. You can work on your jump shot and your post moves, but at the end of the day, you just hope your kid hustles. That he tries hard.

Mario West played in the NBA for two years on the best of little kid's emotion. That is incredible. I don't know if you have ever been really good at something. Worked really hard at it. Been better than most. And then been told that is just not good enough, and the fact is, it was not good enough. You were gifted enough to keep doing or playing whatever it is you were playing or doing. As soon as Mario left high school, his basketball career should have been over. A really good player who should have moved on. And before you know it, he hustled his way first onto Georgia Tech and then to the NBA. He did the impossible where thousands of others quit just figuring that childhood talk of giving your best was something dads said to make you try hard.

So personally, I am not interested in people flaming Mario West for overly celebrating a stop on Dywane Wade or Kobe Bryant because he not only had never been there before. He should not have been there. And he happened to be in a place  Kobe or Dwyane have never even been either, and that is giving all out effort every time they hit the floor. Literally leaving every bit on the court. No one wants to see cute effort in the face of other wordy skill, and Mario shoved it down people's throats every time he hit the floor. He made every single one of us feel bad for giving up on childhood dreams. And the whole thing was galvanizing. It was beautiful.

And in my mind, that is worth celebrating. Not because it is so rare in professional sports, but because it is right, because it is good. So as Mario West walked off that practice court yesterday, I hope he was celebrating. Acting like he had never been there before. Because Mario, you have a lot to be proud of. At the very least, we are proud of you.

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