When she was pregnant with Victor Oladipo, Joan Oladipo dreamed she met Hakeem Olajuwon, the Hall of Fame center. In her dream, Olajuwon gave her an autographed basketball.

"I was having twins, Victor and his sister (Victoria)," said Mrs. Oladipo. "I told their father about the dream. I told him, 'At least one of these twins is going to play basketball."'

Twenty-five years after his mother's dream, Victor Oladipo is living his own. He is the new face of the Indiana Pacers – multi-dimensional, exciting, charismatic, with a flair for the dramatic, leading a team that has exceeded almost everyone's expectations. He has become an All-Star-caliber player, averaging career highs in almost every important category, after being traded twice in his first four NBA seasons.

Former Indiana coach Tom Crean watched a similar meteoric rise for Oladipo during his
career with the Hoosiers, when he went from unheralded recruit as a freshman to college Player of the Year as a junior. Asked to describe the Oladipo effect, Crean said this.

“There’s a lot of style to him,” said Crean. “But it’s never greater than the substance.”

Oladipo's substance is a key ingredient in what the Pacers are trying to build, a team that can eventually contend for championships after it traded Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in June, in exchange for Oladipo and center Domantas Sabonis.

The popular knee-jerk reaction to the trade was that the Pacers were fleeced. Who's saying that now? Criticism of the deal gave Oladipo even more ammunition to make this his best season. His sunny disposition masks a fierce determination, strengthened by rejection and doubters.

"He has always responded to doubt," said Crean. "He has always responded to, 'Am I good enough?' I don’t want to call it fear, but there’s a healthy fear of failure, and I think he’s always had that. Dwyane Wade’s always had that. It’s not a bad thing, It’s only a bad thing if you don’t have the confidence. Victor learned to let the doubts that others had drive him beyond."

Mrs. Oladipo said her son was shocked both times he was traded, after three seasons with the Orlando Magic, then after just one season with the Oklahoma Thunder. But watching Oladipo soar with the Pacers only reaffirms her belief that his current success was preordained.