Me and a few college teammates keep a group text going. My teammate and college roommate B had lately been trying to front about the fact that, on visits to Miami in 2011 and 2012, he quit in the middle of some one-on-one games we’d played — so I had to release the footage of said games to Instagram this past Friday for the world to see.
B was a pretty good player in college, averaging over 20 points per game for two straight seasons (more than double my scoring average) and making the All-Conference team both years. B didn’t go pro though, and by the time he came to Miami and we played, he wasn’t close to the physical shape I was in, and I subsequently destroyed B on the court.
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I consider 2006-13 to be my peak performance years in basketball, when my knowledge of the game best meshed with the peak of my physical capabilities. Around 2008 at age 26 was when I first began to feel the effects on my body of years of playing ball: A sore joint here, a slight muscle strain there, a need to — gasp — warm up before being able to dunk the ball.
I combated these creeping challenges with equipment like speed parachutes, lateral resistors, jump ropes, and weights; and facilities like weight rooms, cardio machines, tracks and fields. I got my body in great shape and not once in that 7-year peak-Dre span did I ever feel physically unprepared.
To me, being in shape was the easiest part of being a professional athlete: The only tool required was the discipline to show up and actually do the training. To get and stay in shape, technical knowledge and experience weren’t as important as dedication and Mental Toughness. You’re either gonna jump the rope, lift the weights, do the sprints, or you’re not. Everyone is welcome; few show up.
Back in Miami, after one of those one-on-one destructions (the games and our workouts are all on YouTube; here’s one), B offered a rationalization for why I was winning and he losing.
“You’re not better than me! You don’t have more skill than me, Dre. You’re just in shape. You just got more energy than me, that’s all.”
There was something that B clearly didn’t know.
“M*****f***er, energy is a skill!!!”
B later agreed with me.
For Your Game
- Energy is 85% of the job. In any situation, the person or team who has the most energy usually wins, controls the outcome, or generally gets their way. Energy can make up for what we lack in ability or resources. If I were teaching someone to play basketball, we’d focus on three things: Layups, dribbling, and conditioning. Basketball is not a game of dribbling and shooting — it’s a game of running, just like boxing isn’t about punches as much as it’s about legs. If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me lamenting how Sixers star Joel Embiid is clearly not in peak game shape just yet — I’m sure conditioning is his #1 priority this summer. Can’t show all of your abilities when you’re tired.
- Energy is a SKILL. Despite my criticism of his ball-dominant ways, one thing I have always admired about Russell Westbrook is that the guy has an always-running motor on the court. He plays a relentless (albeit sometimes reckless) style of basketball that requires a ton of energy, and Russell never seems to run out of it. That’s skill: the ability to do something well; expertise. Whether we’re talking physical or mental energy, the ability to bring it when it’s needed is not chance — it’s a learned ability.
- Skill is a choice. You may have some things that you’re good at that kind of happened by accident or by default — you weren’t planning it, but doing it so often made you pretty good. Tying your shoes, for example. I wasn’t aiming to be great at working the fry vats at McDonald’s when I was 18, but if you’re at work often enough, it happens! Other skills, the ones that you trade on for money, attention and opportunity, must be developed on purpose. 1) Decide the skill, 2) decide the plan of action for development of said skill, 3) take the action, 4) repeat steps 2 & 3 for as long as necessary. Is it a grind? Hell yes. Is it worth it? You’ll have to find out.
What’s a skill you want/need to develop that you haven’t quite grasped yet? What’s in the way? Reply and share with me.