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Dion, DC and changing perceptions

The former Syracuse Orange players are proof that a person shouldn’t always be defined by their past

NBA: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat
With his new contract, Dion might change the notion that he’s a lottery disappointment.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If it’s one thing that we can truly appreciate about Syracuse Orange fans is their loyalty. It’s okay if we criticize someone from the Syracuse “family.” But if anyone outside the circle dares to do the same, Orange fans jump to defend them (S’up Tom Crean). Derrick Coleman and Dion Waiters have been examples of this loyalty, but their recent efforts on and off the court have been met with applauding rather than defending.

Dion’s new contract with the Miami Heat means a lot more than he’s getting paid well to play basketball. Last summer, the NBA world pointed and laughed when Dion turned down the qualifying offer from the Oklahoma City Thunder and ended up costing himself money in a time when free agents were cashing in. This summer, no one’s laughing at Dion, but rather we’re on Waiters Island laughing along with him.

Gone is the image of the out of shape ball hog waving for Lebron, or Kyrie, or Westbrook, or KD to pass him the ball. The guy that many NBA folks had labeled a bust or wasted talent has been replaced by a guy who changed his physique and changed his style of play. Last year Dion helped an injury-ravaged Heat team make a run at a playoff spot. He made clutch shots to win games and he won the bet he made on himself last summer.

While Dion’s become a NBA-media darling, a former punching bag for the group, Derrick Coleman has been letting his actions speak loudly. DC’s a guy who has been used to point out the financial folly of professional athletes. His name often drawing the “Oh what he could have been” from people who saw the No. 1 pick as having the potential to be one of the greats.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Coleman’s basketball days are behind him, but he’s been busy making a difference in the lives of people in his home state of Michigan. While the Flint water crisis has drifted away from national attention, Coleman and others like Rasheed Wallace continue to keep working to help.

"When I look at the people in Flint, I see myself," Coleman said. "It's about helping and caring for people who can't do for themselves. We're going to always keep a light on what's going on in Flint."

The perception of both Dion and DC that was formed during their Syracuse careers is now being shaped by what they have become. Hopefully their example, along with others, will motivate the next generation of Orange athletes to achieve their athletic goals, and then use their status to give back to others.