Regardless of who becomes the first overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday, whether it's Nerlens Noel, Alex Len or a prospect behind door No. 3, you can count on reading a blizzard of the same tired draft buzzwords. Potential. Impact. Upside. Blah, blah, blah.
Here are two different ones that we'd like to introduce to the conversation, courtesy of Hakeem Olajuwon: Curiosity and doubt.
Maybe these aren't the words the fans and media prefer, and certainly no player selected on Thursday would be eager to volunteer thoughts of doubt. But Olajuwon speaks from the perspective of a player who won two NBA titles and went to the Hall of Fame.
Olajuwon was the first overall pick in 1984. It was the first draft that David Stern oversaw as NBA commissioner. With Stern set to preside over the draft for the final time before retiring, Olajuwon is the answer to this week's hot trivia question. While providing a bit of nostalgia, Olajuwon also offers some straight talk for whomever Stern announces first this year.
"It's a honor to be drafted," Olajuwon says. "It's very special to be a first-round draft choice. Then you talk about being the No. 1 draft pick overall -- that's a huge honor. When you look at all the great players who've come in the past, you see the legacy of being the No. 1 draft choice. And that means expectations. You are to be a franchise player. So automatically you feel that weight on your shoulders to be a franchise player."
No sugarcoating it there. So what's the best way to cope with such a weight?
"That's the challenge," he says. "Even though you have all these skills and you have confidence, you are unproven. The other players are matured, experienced and established. How will you handle yourself against that caliber of players? That leads to curiosity and doubt."
So there you have it: Hakeem Olajuwon, voted one of the NBA's Top 50 players of all time, acknowledges that it's OK to question yourself. Maybe never to the public, but during those moments when your head hits the pillow and the room is quiet, it is all right to come clean.
"Yes, curiosity and doubt. How will I measure up to these players?" he says. "When you are in college, some of these players are your heroes. Now you have these skills and the expectation to be a franchise player. And you have to deliver."
Olajuwon paid quick dividends by leading the Rockets to the NBA Finals in just his second season. They lost in six games to Larry Bird's Celtics, but Olajuwon made his mark as being the first from the draft class of '84 that is considered the best of all time to hit the biggest pro stage. Five years before Michael Jordan, and seven years before Charles Barkley.
After confronting this curiosity and doubt, Olajuwon says it is time for self-help.
"You can't worry about who you go up against," he says. "You have to focus on yourself and your skills and get them to the highest level."
Perhaps it is no coincidence then that another No. 1 overall pick, LeBron James, reached the highest level with back-to-back NBA championships after spending time with Olajuwon in the summer of 2011 to develop his post skills. At that point in his career, James was 0 for 2 in the Finals, and for him, doubt was a word popular with fans and media. But as Olajuwon has been saying, that's OK.