Detroit Pistons: Why Will Bynum Represents All That Is Right About Sports
I'll let this highlight reel do the talking. Take it away, Will.
Now, it would be convenient if that was all Bynum was. For those that want to boil players down to their stats, we can throw them out there: averages of 7.6 points, 3.0 assists and less than one steal per game over his career.
If that were the whole story, I would understand glossing over this guy and assuming that he is just another second-string player a stone's throw away from playing his way out of the league.
That would be easier than examining the real story behind Bynum.
The truth is that Bynum's story is about what separates the success stories from the cautionary tales, the "could haves" from the "dids", the "never-will-bes" from the "made its."
Everyone knows someone that almost made it, but very few know someone that actually did in the face of adversity.
Very few know someone like Bynum.
Will Bynum grew up in Chicago idolizing Isiah Thomas, another point guard from the Windy City that played much bigger than his actual size.
After a great career at Crane High School, he went on to play for Arizona under legendary head coach Lute Olsen.
After a couple of solid seasons in the Pac-10, he moved to the ACC and Georgia Tech and immediately helped lead the Yellow Jackets to a Final Four berth and a disappointing loss in the 2005 championship game against UConn.
After his senior season, Bynum was not drafted despite a very good collegiate career, his size likely playing a key role in the snub.
Instead of giving up, he signed a free-agent contract with the Boston Celtics, but his efforts only took him through training camp.
Again, he decided not to give up, but rather to catch on with the Roanoke Dazzle of the D-League.
This is where you need to really fall in love with the guy.
Like the college graduate that takes a job at the local grocery rather than sit on his butt and collect unemployment, Bynum refused to just sit on his laurels.
We have all known someone who thinks he is better than his occupation. He whines about his plight and saves face by purposefully doing a poor job just to make a point.
Bynum was having none of that, busting his tail to win NBDL rookie of the year for the 2005-06 season.
He hustled his way to a 10-day contract with the Golden State Warriors that he was able to parlay into a guaranteed contract through the end of the 2005-06 season.
Despite playing his heart out with Golden State, he was not offered a contract for the next season and found himself looking for a new home yet again.
A Bold Move
Despite other options, Bynum decided to take the road less traveled and headed overseas to Israel to play with the legendary Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club.
When Bynum signed on, the country was just winding down its war with Lebanon.
Bynum made the most of his situation and helped lead Maccabi to the Euroleague final in 2008.
Based on his tremendous play in one of the more respected European leagues, Bynum was offered a contract by the Detroit Pistons in 2008.
Bynum's first season in Detroit was a tumultuous one, as Detroit was dealing with the aftermath of the Chauncey Billups-for-Allen Iverson trade that signaled the end of the team's championship years.
But Bynum didn't allow the team's downfall alter his play. In fact, he became a fan favorite due in large part to the fact that he was the anti-Iverson. Both were of a similar size and played a similar game, but Bynum was viewed as a player that fans could get behind due to his aggressive style of play and difficult path to the pros.
While A.I. didn't stick around past that 2009-10 season, Bynum saw his minutes increase to a career-high 26.5 per game in that same season. With increased playing time, Bynum produced career highs in points per game (10.0), assists (4.5) as well as steals, blocks and rebounds.
Bynum had earned his way back to the pros and made the most of his opportunity.
He wasn't given a shot—he took it.
Unfortunately, Bynum's tenure in Detroit has been anything but steady. During his five years in Detroit, he has seen three different head coaches, all of whom have utilized him to a different capacity.
While previous coaches Michael Curry and John Kuester rewarded Bynum with an increased role, current head coach Lawrence Frank has not been as liberal with his minutes for Bynum.
Every once in awhile, Bynum will explode over a short stretch and force Frank to keep him on the floor. He did so very recently against the Atlanta Hawks, finishing with 31 points, four rebounds and four assists in just over 36 minutes.
More often than not, though, Bynum will cycle in and out of the game as an energy guy, typically playing between 10 and 20 minutes per game.
There are plenty of reasons why players don't get playing time. In most cases, said player doesn't fit with the current coach's vision for his team. That appears to be the case here as the numbers game has Bynum on the outside looking in.
With Kyle Singler taking over Rodney Stuckey's role as starting shooting guard, Stuckey has been given Bynum's old job of backup point guard. And given how well the Pistons played following that move—by their standards—Bynum was once again relegated to the bench.
But again, Bynum refused to let adversity win out. Instead, he went about his business and waited for his number to be called.
Stuckey started to suffer from back spasms over a week ago, which opened the door for Bynum once more. Yet again, he has made the most of a seemingly grim situation, as best illustrated by his big game against Atlanta.
Bynum's story is symbolic of what makes sports an inspiring microcosm of life. It is the story of the self-made man that continues to battle.
So many times in his life, he could have given up and let the critics run him down. But quitting was never an option for him.
This coming year, when we are struggling to maintain our New Years resolutions, it might do us well to remember Will Bynum.
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