Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to be Malcolm Gladwell

"In the winter of 1963, Hakeem Olajuwon was born to the owners of a cement business in Lagos, Nigeria. "They taught us to be honest, work hard, respect our elders, believe in ourselves," Olajuwon once said of his parents. In his middle-class childhood, Olajuwon played handball and soccer, but it was not until the age of fifteen that he was exposed to basketball. After entering his first tournament, he realized that he was remarkably skilled at the sport. Within two years he had arrived in Texas, where he played for three seasons at the University of Houston. In 1983, he won the NCAA Tournament Player of the Year Award; he also led the Houston Cougars to two straight NCAA championship games. As the number one pick in the NBA draft in 1984, he could boast of being chosen two spots ahead of Michael Jordan. NBA analysts now consider him to be one of the twenty best players in the history of professional basketball.

"Olajuwon is just over 6'10." He perfectly exemplifies what might be called the Height Trumps Experience Rule, which I have just coined. This rule stipulates that people who are at least a foot taller than the average height will excel at a chosen sport, especially when height is an advantage in that sport. The rule also obtains when the individual in question discovered the game relatively late in life, and spent little time practicing during his or her youth. It sheds light on a variety of hitherto unexplained phenomena. I hope to be recognized for it."