It all starts with one dream, one goal, one ambition.
For James Naismith, it began with a soccer ball, two peach baskets and 13 basic rules.
Fast forward 120 years, travel west roughly 3,024 miles on interstates 80 and 84, and you'll find yourself at the Rose Garden for the Nike Hoop Summit.
The Nike Hoop Summit features high school-age athletes who flaunt their skills on the Rose Garden stage while college and pro scouts look on and drool. The Summit is a stepping stone for those who dream of an NBA career, such as Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett. Portland's own Patty Mills and Nicolas Batum even walked the hardwood before slipping on Blazer attire.
The Summit is a one-way ticket to that long-standing dream engraved in those athletes' minds. It's a gateway to heaven.
Today's stars, all-stars and superstars are proud to be alumni of the Summit, proving that this setting is a setup for the Big Show.
For those who know even the slightest bit about me, I'm a numbers fiend - Rain Man. That being said, sit back, prep yourselves and stick with me.
Since the event's inauguration in 1995, we've seen the stars before they were stars. Now, those stars are precedents. We've been graced with huge outings from Garnett in 1995 to North Carolina's Harrison Barnes in last year's event.
Of the top 27 performers from the past Summits, 24 pull on NBA jerseys 82 nights (or more) outof the year. The three athletes from 2010 are well on their way to join 23 Summit participants who were first-round draft picks. Even Jonny Flynn recognized the significance of the contest.
"So it feels good to come out of a game like this, you know great players on their team," he said after his two-point, 10-assist performance in 2007. "You're going to see them in the NBA one day. So it's good. When we get to the NBA, we can joke around with them and say, 'You know we beat you,' and stuff like that."
Others may not have looked that far ahead. Others focus on the next level or merely on the experience alone. Following his game-high 27 points, Barnes steered away from the future.
"It's a great opportunity for me to come here and not only represent our country, but represent the Midwest and the state of Iowa," he said. "I'm so humbled and honored by the experience."
Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, on the other hand, used the Summit as a trampoline to the NCAA.
"It gives me confidence because everybody says I can't finish over bigger or more athletic people," he said. "It helped me to adjust my game to the next level."
If you didn't hear, he did, pouring in 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds.
This year's World and USA Select members are en route to their predecessors' fame. Tendencies don't lie (line of the year, quote me). Since the NBA implemented the one year of college rule, the Nike Hoop Summit propelled its participants into NCAA stardom.
Of the 13 top dogs since the Draft regulation, seven became All-Americans, six first-teamers and two players of the year.
Last year's event had 21 athletes with 15 going on to compete in the NCAA. This season's
frustrating and blood-boiling NCAA Tournament saw 14 take the floor. Those "diaper dandies" went on to average 10.61 points and 4.67 boards throughout the season in more than 24 minutes per game. Six of the rookies put up at least 15 points per game and a minimum 30 minutes per night.
We've seen today's big men like Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal nearly put up triple-doubles, former Trail Blazers like Zach Randolph, Darius Miles, Martell Webster, Sebastian Telfair, Jerryd Bayless, Batum and Mills walk out of that locker room tunnel.
It all started with a soccer ball, two peach baskets and 13 basic rules. Now, we have the Nike Hoop Summit - a laboratory that displays and enhances the abilities of rising stars like radioactivity pumping up super powers. The NBA's league of superheroes need to find successors. Look no further. They're in training at the Nike Hoop Summit.