Is the Massachusetts born, NBA player Pat Connaughton the Caucasian reincarnation of Michael Jordan? Who’s to say? Certainly not me. Compare their physical attributes and see for yourself. Connaughton’s current weight is almost the same, give or take a couple pounds, as Jordan’s prime playing weight. Connaughton stands at 6’5″ with shoes. When he puts on a pair of cleats, he’s even closer to M.J.’s 6’6″ stature. Coincidence? I think not.
All jokes aside, they are both two-sport professional athletes, which puts them in a rare class. If Connaughton does choose to leave the NBA to pursue a career in baseball, it will be for a somewhat different reason. When Jordan left the NBA, he was looking for a change of scenery to distract from the depressing developments in his life, to get away from the sudden grief brought on by the senseless murder of his father. At his peak, dominating the sport of basketball in America and beyond, Jordan unstrapped and unlaced his Model VIII shoes and swapped them for pair of cleats. Michael played 9 seasons in the NBA before first retiring, achieving top-tier success and worldwide fame along with fortunes that still rival the richest moguls and entrepreneurs of the world.
In the words of Michael Jordan: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” Pat Connaughton, however, has significantly more to lose. He has made the roster of an NBA squad, which is more difficult than getting selected onto an MLB roster. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two players is that MJ had already achieved superstar status and was considered the best athlete in the world at the time of his departure. During the 2016-17 season, Connaughton sat on the sidelines more than he played. He logged only 8.1 minutes of playing time per game. Also, it was a decision of the heart for Jordan to pursue baseball, because it was his late father’s longtime dream to see him play baseball professionally. To connect with his father one last time, Jordan made it his goal to make it into the MLB. He succeeded in his mission, and he would’ve considered the endeavor a success even if he hadn’t succeeded, because he made the move to uproot from the sport he had become great at, and to start fresh at a sport that was foreign to him. Trying for him was the hardest part, his perseverance meant success to him, whether he failed or not.
The statistics of the matter proves that making the NBA is a much rarer feat than making the MLB. A quick Google search reveals a couple ballpark estimates, for NCAA Basketball, seniors have a less than one in seventy-five, or 1.3% chance of getting drafted. On the baseball side, chances of making it to the pro level are increased. For college seniors, chances stand at about 10.5%.
Even if the platform Jordan had built for himself made it easier to transition sports, there is no question that when the man sets his mind to a goal, he will work harder than anyone else to achieve said goal. His work ethic in the league was unmatched by anyone, and he was even considered a psychopath by teammates and coaches because it.
The Baltimore Orioles organization likes the chances of Connaughton making it as a baseball pro, and they are making an honest effort to recruit and encourage the young, athletic guard to swap sports. Baltimore’s professional baseball team is lying in wait for Connaughton to make the switch, and they’re trying to make it as appealing as possible. He was drafted by the team in the 4th round of the 2014 draft. He had this to say to The Baltimore Sun about his decision between sports: “You’ve got to look at it both ways. I’ve always had a drive to be successful. I’ve always wanted and always dreamed of having an impact in the NBA, Everyone always assumed that, for me, baseball was going to be the route that I went and I was going to be very successful in it. And to be quite honest, I think maybe someday that will be the case.”
He goes on to say: “But I’m to the point in my life now where I want to give this a real, real shot before I sit down and look at my options and take anything else into consideration.”
The managerial staff of the Orioles, for one, believes Connaughton could make the transition between professional sports and have a successful career. Orioles Executive Vice President Dan Duquette has high praise for young Connaughton, saying, “He’s a terrific athlete, has a world of talent. A good competitor.” The fact that Connaughton has made an NBA squad, as a second-round draft pick is a testament to his hard-working character and his ability to achieve his goal. He is quoted saying that he didn’t want to be “another white guy who can shoot like the stereotype says.” He has clearly evaded this stereotype and become a versatile and reliable guard.
Connaughton has picked basketball over baseball for the time being, so obviously he is partial to the sport and he’s enjoying every minute of it. In either sport, he will be paid handsomely, so I don’t particularly believe monetary gain is an issue for him. Another factor one must consider is the preservation of the player’s body. Basketball requires much more physical hardiness and endurance. The length of the season and the amount of games played and the physical stamina it asks of its players is nothing to sneeze at. From my own experience, baseball has less of a physical endurance expectation than basketball. During a basketball game, you are constantly running, jumping, bumping and bodying opposing players. Players will often be drenched in sweat after just the first quarter. Baseball is more mental and methodical.
Connaughton will gun for the role of starting pitcher with his bazooka of a right arm, which he is able to beam consistently over 95 miles per hour. He played both sports at Notre Dame. Connaughton would make history if he does decide to jump sports ships and pursue a career in the MLB, after logging minutes in NBA. The select two that are noteworthy are Jordan and Boston Celtics great Danny Ainge – who played three seasons of MLB before jumping into professional basketball and having a memorable career. Those who have not played but have been drafted to an additional pro sports league includes: Dave Winfield, who was drafted into a total of four professional leagues: NBA, MLB, ABA, and NFL. Jackie Robinson was the first UCLA athlete to letter in four sports. He played basketball at the college level and excelled, but ultimately chose to seek stardom in the MLB – most historians would say he chose correctly. Another MLB legend worth mentioning is Tony Gwynn. Gwynn was drafted on the same day by both the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Pat Connaughton was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, earning a signing bonus of $428,000 and playing in the minor leagues for that summer. Pat has two crafts and he is working steadily to improve each. Basketball has strengthened his body and built up his stamina, so he knows that if he does make the jump, he will have no trouble finding his stride on the pitching mound.