Competitive Fire: Being an Asshole On The Court

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Continuing on the theme of the mental game and the mindset needed to unleash the skills you have, I read some comments from Kobe Bryant recently on his mentorship of Dwight Howard in LA:

 “I make guys uncomfortable. When I practice, everybody is a little uncomfortable,” Bryant said. “If you want to get to that next level, if a guy’s guarding you in practice, you have to punish him and send him a message. Make the guy who is guarding you think about if he wants to play in the NBA anymore.

“Dwight, to be a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, you’ve got to have a little of that dog in you,” Bryant said. “It’s just a matter of him digging deep and just pulling it out. But it’s already there. It’s just a matter of him having it become habit.”

I love these quotes because it captures the essence of competitng to me: it’s all about beating the person in front of you. Whatever that may cost; and the costs change depending on your adversary. No matter the situation, though, you have to be ready & willing to fight and win. Not necessarily a fistfight, but maybe. If the player you’re up against is willing to fight and you’re not, you lose, because they are willing o take things further than you. 50 Cent said in an interview,

“The kid in the schoolyard that doesn’t want to fight always leaves with a black eye. Because when the other kid identifies that he doesn’t want to fight, he hits him.”

I have had some of my best performances when I get into the mode Kobe speaks about here. Not flat-out rage — that doesn’t work much in basketball, since too much energy can break down your fine motor skills (dribbling, shooting, passing) — but a kind of controlled anger that you channel into intense focus. It’s not easy to put it completely in writing, but I know exactly what Kobe is thinking when I read what he said.

But that’s just me. Some players thrive off of joy — the happiness of playing the game. But when I really think about it, the best players — the ones that end up wining in the end — are the ones willing to, as Bill Simmons likes to say, “commit homicide to win a game.” Jordan. Magic. Kobe. Shaq in the Laker years (YouTube some Shaq from 2000-02 if you are too young to remember his demolishing of every big man alive).

For a player looking to find that place and make it work for her, it is paramount, as far as I’m concerned, that you are willing to go as far or further than anyone else on the floor. Because if any of them know that you’re not, how can you beat/ lead/ demand respect of them?