Jameer Nelson has had to deal with doubters his whole life.
"I have always been overlooked because I am small, but I always get the job done," Nelson said. "Don't tell me somebody is better than me just because he is taller than me. I can do the same things that he can, so what is the difference?"
During an amazing senior season at Saint Joseph's University, in which he led the Hawks to an undefeated regular season, he was considered to be one of the best players in the nation.
He averaged 20.6 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.9 steals per game and America quickly embraced him.
He wasn't a seven-foot center with freakish athletic abilities. He wasn't a prima donna at a top basketball school.
He was barely six feet tall, playing for an underdog school, and achieved success because of his hard work. The average person could relate to Jameer Nelson.
Sports Illustrated may have put it best when Nelson appeared on its cover next to the words "Meet Jameer Nelson: The Little Man From The Little School That's Beating Everyone."
While basketball fans and media members alike fell in love with the kid from Philly, NBA scouts weren't so sure about him. Scouts were scared that his lack of size would limit him as a pro.
One Western Conference executive had his doubts about Jameer saying, "He's a short-armed, short guy. People wondered whether he was quick enough to be effective. Some people questioned his shot, whether he could get past people."
Another issue was that while he was a very talented scorer, he wasn't a pure point guard. He was more of a Gilbert Arenas or Allen Iverson-type point guard whose points per game numbers were always more impressive than his passing statistics.
Teams looking for a distributor to run their team quickly shied away from Nelson.
When the NBA Draft rolled around, Jameer slipped and slipped all the way to the 20th pick when the Denver Nuggets selected him.
Just when he started getting used to the idea of teaming up with Carmelo Anthony, Denver shipped the point guard to Orlando in exchange for a 2005 first round selection.
Orlando wanted to pair its other first round selection, Dwight Howard, with another young stud in Nelson. Eager to prove the teams which passed up on him wrong, Jameer worked hard gaining quickness, expanding his offensive arsenal, developing leadership skills, and learning.
Fast forward three years.
The Orlando Magic are on the verge of winning 50 games and have all the weapons to make a run in the playoffs. This season Nelson has had even more doubts hung over him.
The point guard position has been the weakest for Orlando this season and inconsistent play from Jameer has been one of the reasons.
His play is a direct correlation of the team's success. When he struggles, the team struggles. When he plays well and performs his job, the team does well.
Take Saturday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers for example. Nelson played outstanding with a stat line of 16 points, nine assists, two steals, and zero turnovers.
Orlando beat Cleveland 101-86 and everything was clicking for the Magic. The next night Orlando traveled to New York to square off against the dreadful Knicks.
While Jameer would score 19 points in the game, he did a poor job of managing the ball and running the offense. He only had one assist in the game to go along with four turnovers and five fouls.
The Magic lost the game 100-90.
With Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Rashard Lewis, Orlando could make a solid push come playoff time. But in order to do so, Nelson must perform his job which is to hit open shots and get the ball to the Magic's offensive weapons.
Whether or not he can play consistently will determine whether the Magic make a run at the Eastern Conference title or end up losing early in the postseason.
Jameer Nelson is definitely the X-Factor for Orlando come playoff time and he must tune out his critics and prove them wrong.
If the Magic want to have any success in this season’s playoffs, Nelson will have to shut up doubters once again and use it as motivation to reach the ultimate goal, an NBA championship.
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