Sunday, December 12, 2004

Basketball -- A Different Pace

An observation I read on the ESPN sports page struck me as somehow connected to more than just basketball.

The observation was that all of the truly great basketball players -- Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson -- have something in common, and it's not a particular move or a specific physical trait. The weird trait they have in common is that they all move on the basketball court at a different speed than everyone else on the court. Everyone else moves and flows with each other, but the greats always seem to move at their own personal pace, and by virtue of their presence force the game to move with them. The odd thing is that this pace is not necessarily faster than everyone else -- often times, it's slower. The commonality is that through any game there is a calm poise that each player holds, so that regardless of the situation they continue to play their game at their pace, and let the game come to them.

This tidbit tied into a conversation I had at a weekend brunch where this guy told me about how when he was a kid his parents discouraged him from crying after little things like scraping a knee or not getting candy he wanted. His parents told him to keep a "stiff upper lip" and taught him that even when things don't go his way, it's important to keep a hold of himself. He was taught to be tough at an early age, and to not sweat the small stuff. He told me that nowadays he's a stock trader, which is a very high-pressure job, and that his early childhood was the best preparation he had for that because when he's at his job and people are yelling and screaming, it doesn't get to him because he was taught early on that it's not a big deal when things don't do your way, you just get up, brush yourself off and move on.

I'm not exactly sure how these two items tie together, but they struck me as intimately related. Perhaps it is the notion that in basketball and life, the great ones out there don't let the small things change them. They don't panic or sweat the small things, but continue to have confidence and faith in themselves, and let the game come to them.