Draft night, 2015.
Whether your eyes were glued to the TV (pro tip: don’t adhere the glue directly to your eyes - use a strip of clear plastic wrap as a buffer), you were making subtle glances at your phone during your great uncle’s funeral, or you were refreshing your computer screen on the sly while teaching a classroom full of kids on the other side of the world (pleading not guilty), there was an unencumbered jubilation when Willie Cauley-Stein and his blue polka-dotted bowtie were called up to the stage at pick 6. As Pistons fans, we knew what that meant. We KNEW what that meant. Mudiay. Winslow. One of these treasures would be ours, all ours! When Denver selected Mudiay, our excitement reached a fervent pitch. There was whooping and hollering, rejoicing, jig-dancing, and a state full of confused pets wondering what all the fuss was about. Winslow. Say it again, now. Winslow! Louder now. WINSLOW! Soft and sensual like the breeze, now.
Then...It happened. With the 8th pick in the 2015 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons select Justise Winslow from Duke Univers...Hold up, why is Stanley Johnson pointing to the sky right now? Why is he hugging family members and walking up to the stage? He’s pulling a Zoolander, right? Wait, why is nobody else noticing this? Then, realization set in and the jaws of thousands of Detroit Pistons fans plummeted to the ground like the Demon Drop (if you didn’t get that reference, consult a Pistons or Cavs fan).
So Winslow dropped to us and we DIDN’T select him? What do we want? JUSTISE! When do we want it? NOW! Why did I take up the religion of the man peddling homemade brochures? Why did I wish upon stars until they seared holes in my retinas? Why did I sacrifice a virgin goat? I think at this moment, many of us felt the Pistons franchise was sopping with the blood of a cute little virgin goat whisked away from the county fair petting zoo (again, pleading not guilty here).
The next couple months were all a blur. I sat rocking in the fetal position so long, I began having pre-natal flashbacks. I rocked back and forth, letting the hypnotic sounds of TV static in a darkened room release me from the burdens of time and space.
BUT somewhere along the way, it happened. Stanley Johnson summer leagued and he summer leagued WELL. A blip of light emerged from the darkness, but it was soon drowned out by the Daye -- or at least memories of Austin Daye’s flashes of amazing in summer league. No, I had learned my lesson before, and there’s an old saying recited once by our nation’s former leaders about being fooled multiple times.
Then Stanley spoke. I was entranced. Stanley aspires for greatness and each word that escapes his lips contains a tiny map of how he plans to get there. When Stanley speaks of his constant desire for improvement and his goal of greatness, it sparks a change inside of whoever is on the receiving end. He makes you believe you can be 3000% percent better than you already are, inciting a self-evaluation process that forces you to break down how efficiently you put on your pajamas at night. I have a name for these Stanley-induced self-improvement impulses: Stanimalistic Urges.
Even if Stanley Johnson never starts an NBA game, never makes an All-Star game, and never achieves the greatness he sets out to conquest, he will still have been the correct pick because he has given us the gift of Stanimalistic Urges. But he will achieve these things. He will achieve them and much, much more precisely BECAUSE he has these same Stanimalistic Urges toward greatness. THIS is why he dominated the PAC10 as a freshman. THIS is why he utterly destroyed summer league opponents. THIS is why when the Pistons needed him to play point guard -- POINT GUARD? POINT GUARD! -- he dominated that too. If Stanley is asked to fill in at point guard for the concussed, the contused, and the achillesed, he’s not just going to play the point guard; he’s going to be great.
Stanley breathes greatness. If the waterboy was out sick, Stanley would be setting up a pyramid of cups and letting them flow like the Tahquamenon Falls. He would mix that water until the oxygen atoms perfectly complemented the hydrogen. You would feel hydrated like never before. If the Palace popcorn popper was out with butter burn, Stanley would be behind that counter before the game executing the perfect butter drizzle that transforms regular popcorn into a tiny amber utopia of sweet butter globules that would make Orville Reddenbacher weep tears of joy in his casket.
THIS is the power of Stanimalistic Urges. They drive Stanley toward greatness. They drive us toward greatness.
What is YOUR Stanimalistic Urge telling you to do now?