For every Will Smith eschewing MIT to become a rapper, there are a million people cutting class to dream big who…well, you’ve seen American Idol auditions.
But what about the reverse? Some people would never have succeeded without the good sense to say to hell with their dreams and pursue something more lucrative. Here are some champs who opened the door when opportunity knocked.
Steve Nash plays the footie
You know him as a two-time NBA MVP, but basketball wasn’t always Nash’s gooooaaaal! If he had followed through with his original plan, he’d be playing soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it, “consolation prize football.” He comes from a soccer family (with an in-law playing for the NHL…it is Canada after all), and has expressed a desire to buy a piece of Tottenham Hotspur, which sounds like a cold remedy but is in fact an English football club. It was only a timely scholarship that delivered him safely from the arms of violent hooligans and into…oh hell, Arizona. Thankfully, he never gave up his dream of being a swell guy.
Sean Combs does not play the footie
Speaking of real football, Sean “Diddy” Combs wanted to be a football player. Well, so does every other red-blooded American boy. The difference is that when most of them shatter their leg senior year, they spend the rest of their lives telling Napoleon Dynamite how different things might have been. But Puffy had to find a new gig rustling & hustling up some of the best names in rap, hip hop, and R&B. If he had ridden his school’s division title into a football career that went nowhere, he wouldn’t be rapping to the tune of more than $300 million today.
Rob Pattinson raps, has giant chin
We’re going to tie this list into a perfect circle with someone who did want to be a rapper. How about the guy your girlfriend thinks of during sex? (You are dating one of those creepy Twi-moms, right?) Robert Pattinson soaks movie seats across the country as an even less-threatening vegetarian vampire than Count Duckula. He claims to have “hundreds and hundreds of tapes” of his teen self rapping about his gangsta upbringing in one of London’s nicer sections. And then one day, the film industry said, “Young man, we believe your chin could pierce the hearts of many a fair maiden,” and off he went to the Harry Potter franchise. Man, you can’t swing a broomstick around an urban fantasy tale without hitting Pattinson in the chin.
Pope Benedict fights Nazis, molestation victims, illiteracy
Young Joseph Ratzinger didn’t want to rap because he was too busy deserting the Nazis, but he had an obsession with words and he loves it when you call him Il Papa. Though he did achieve his dream of becoming a cardinal, the elderly cleric wanted nothing more than to retire to a librarian post. God, who historically prefers Italians, decided he’d prefer the librarian type for once, and gave Ratzinger a set of keys to the pearly gates. If a 70-year-old man’s wish to retire wasn’t denied him, his biggest claim to fame would have been silencing child molestation victims, but instead he became #2 on Jesus’ speed dial (#1 is still Moms).
Steve Jobs: Spiritual Sojourner
At the exact time when Bill Gates was gambling a Harvard education on his new software company, Steve Jobs was refining the homeless arts on friends’ floors, mooching from Hare Krishnas, and scavenging soda bottles for food. One of the classes he was taking (but not receiving credit for) was calligraphy. He was the kind of guy who drifts away after high school, and the next time you hear of him is a news headline that ends with “…In Tragic Incident.” He only took a programming job to fund a trip to his true passion: India. He returned an acid-tripping Buddhist, still disinterested in building computers, but spiritually enlightened enough to cheat the real talent. Counting his ill-gotten thousands, Jobs finally committed himself to thinking different selling a pile of electronics.