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You don’t need a basketball to practice basketball (apparently)

I recently finished reading an article from Business Insider titled “17 Examples Of Kobe Bryant’s Insane Work Ethic.

The entire piece provides an enlightening look at the kind of discipline and dedication that often comprises what appears on the surface to be sheer athletic giftedness.

My favorite example is # 3:

He used to practice by himself without a ball, says Shaq. Shaq wrote in his book:

“You’d walk in there and he’d be cutting and grunting and motioning like he was dribbling and shooting — except there was no ball. I thought it was weird, but I’m pretty sure it helped him.”

Could anything be weirder, and seemingly more pointless, than practicing basketball without a basketball?

Stories like this compel me to ask myself the following question:

In what way is it possible for me to work towards my goals even when certain elements that appear to be essential are missing?

It’s easy to imagine how much further along we’d be if we had more time, more money, more support, more energy, more information, more experience, etc.

People with practice routines like Kobe Bryant remind us that there is always something we can do to get better if we’re willing to work hard, think outside the box, and risk looking weird for the sake of being great.

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. I am reluctant to express my concerns over using Kobe Bryant as
    an example. I realize that this is your blog where you are free to
    determine its content and how open you are to many of your
    readers’ replies. And how benevolent you are. You can delete this
    one if you wish.

    I have serious reservations about using Kobe Bryant when there
    are so many other examples. (LeBron, Chamberlain, Jordan, Shaq,
    Magic Johnson etc.) Overachiever in sports. But…

    Below is an excerpt displaying the dissembling nature human beings
    exhibit when they disavow responsibility for their actions.

    “Upon learning the charges were dismissed, Kobe Bryant released a
    statement through his lawyer. (2004 sexual assault case of the 19 year
    old young lady whose life was invaded and torn apart by this.)

    “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same
    way I did,” he said. “After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she
    feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

    Bryant and his accuser ultimately settled out of court in her civil suit against Bryant.”

    1. I’m not deleting your comment. There’s nothing there that makes it “delete-worthy.” Yes, it is my blog and I am free to post whatever I’d like, but I also welcome other points of view even if I disagree with those points of view. One of my favorite quotes of all-time (and I read it for the first time just three days ago) comes from Robert T. Frost:

      “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” -Robert Frost

      I try to live by that.

      I think the world needs more people who can demonstrate the ability to disagree and debate with class and respect. The kind of dialogue you’re inviting here is one of the best ways to mature and learn. As long as you’re respectful (and you have never been anything less), you are more than welcome to share your thoughts whether they contradict my views or not.

      With that being said, here are my thoughts on your comments regarding my use of Kobe Bryant as an example here.

      #1 I have never held myself to the standard of vouching for another human being’s virtue as a necessary condition for extoling and/or emulating the admirable aspects of their personal or professional achievements. This is not to say that I choose to turn a blind eye towards people’s failings and flaws. It’s just that I do not choose to make my acknowldgement, affirmation, and admiration of applaudable characteristics dependent upon the absence of vice. If I required this of myself, I don’t think I would have any heroes at all. Every single one of my heroes (as well as the ones that society wishes me to have) possesses morally objectionable qualities in my opinion. I strive to mantain a robust distinction between what I can learn from others and what I may despise in others.

      #2 As far as the other athletes you mentioned, I prefer Kobe Bryant’s work ethic over all those guys with Michael Jordan being the only exception. All of those players are great achievers, but Kobe’s determination to systematically eliminate his weaknesses is almost unparalled. Even Lebron James gave Kobe credit for showing him (during the Olympics) how to take his own practice routines to a higher level. Shaq, although a great achiever, was often criticized for showing up to training camp overweight. Commentators would frequently point out how he would coast through the regular season and use “inconsequential” games to get in shape for the playoffs. I could go on, but my point isn’t to bash those other guys or to present Kobe as a superior PLAYER. Kobe is definitely a polarizing personality. But in terms of his work ethic, he’s one of the most intense practice players of all-time. I wouldn’t put him in the same league as Jordan, but I wouldn’t put any of those guys you mentioned above him in terms of the intensity and rigour with which he approaches “hiiting the gym”, staying in shape, and refining his game. These two articles capture my view of Kobe’s work ethic compared to the likes of Lebron and others.

      Now, of course, all of these guys have to work hard to get where they are. And all of them are probably harder workers than me. But if i could wave a magic wand and automatically receive the work ethic (not talent or personality) of any NBA player in history, I would take jordan’s first and Kobe’s second. But i don’t think there’s an objectively wrong answer here. A lot of our assessments on these issues depends on certain stylistic preferences as well.

      #3 I like the story about Kobe practicing without the ball. That’s what moves me. If the basketball player was Steve Kerr, I would have still written the same blog post. It think it’s a cool visual image that lends itself quite neatly to a metaphor on self-determination. Clearly, I picked a guy that isn’t one of your favorites, but i hope you’re able to appreciate my larger point and intent.

      #4 Regarding the allegations you brought up, I’m not interested in getting involved in a debate over whether he’s guilty of those charges or not. He was not proven guilty in a court of law (although it is possible he may be guilty in reality). I don’t think the statement you quoted proves his guilt just as I don’t believe the accuser’s willingness to accept a large payment as part of an agreement to drop the charges proves she was lying (and, yes, that argument has been made by Kobe supporters). There are passionate arguments made on both sides. In my opinion, sexual assault is among the greatest of evils and it’s a topic that should not be taken lightly. I don’t believe in forming opinions about what either side is or isn’t guilty of on such an issue if I don’t know what I’m talking about. YOU may feel warranted (based on what you’ve examined) in labeling Kobe as guilty, but I don’t know (from my honestly assessed epistemic standpoint) what happened. I’m always confused about these out of court settlements to be honest. I’ve heard many explanations for why both sides would benefit from them, but I’ve always felt uneasy about the notion of money being used to make such strong accusations go away. It’s difficult for me to imagine why either side would settle for that (in spite of the many explanations that are given), but i’ve also never been in either side’s position. I have no vested interest in arguing for Kobe’s innocence on the issue you brought up. Someone knows what really happened, but that someone is not T.K. Coleman. Moreover, I’m really not that interested in the off-court scandals of celebrities. I try to take what I can learn from them and I tend to leave the rest out of my equation.

      Your thoughts?

      1. My thoughts….

        A man alone in a close-quarters hotel room with a
        young lady knows if the sex is consensual or not.
        It doesn’t take attorneys, discovery and testimony
        to clarify this. “I now know how she feels and she
        did not consent to this encounter.” Hiding behind
        lawyers who spoke this for him. Indeed Kobe Bryant
        was “practicing without a ball” in this dismal event.
        (Which also raises the specter of other possible
        “encounters” like this.)

        Tiger Woods, Martin Luther King and many others
        did have affairs. And It is curious that Tiger Woods
        would lose his endorsements over adultery, but
        Bryant didn’t over rape.

        There is a difference between vices and violence.
        And violence doesn’t always shed blood but does
        always use force. There is so much that can be
        accepted or forgiven in human beings as we make
        our way through our lives. But not the use of
        unapologetic brute force. And intimidation and
        misuse of power.

        John Douglas, the renowned FBI profiler writes
        a lengthy chapter on the difficulties of bringing
        rape crimes to justice. (Cases That Haunt Us,
        The Anatomy of Motive, etc.) And notes that the
        only way to get some justice is through a civil suit.
        This is used often BEFORE a criminal indictment
        to try difficult homicide cases. (Usually spouse
        to spouse murders.) The O.J. civil suit after his
        trial is rarer. (A very enlightening book on this
        case is Outrage by Vincent Bugliosi.)

        I found it disturbing that fathers of daughters were
        asking why a 20-year-old young lady went to
        Mike Tyson’s hotel room at midnight. Implying
        she deserved what happened to her. These guys
        are good at spotting vulnerabilities in others. She
        had told him her father loved boxing and especially
        Mike Tyson. He offered her a signed picture. When
        they got into the limo, he then suggested she go up
        to his hotel room with him and he would autograph
        an unsigned picture to her father. The limo driver
        confirmed this. Then this big boxer raped her.

        Tyson was from the streets but never left them.
        George Foreman did. I can see a subtle change
        in Tyson lately, for the better. But until he owns
        what he did he won’t be truly a man. Or free.

        You have a fine mind and I think your words will
        travel far as time goes on. Your endorsement
        will count for much in the future. I know you’re an
        avid fan of basketball. And you use it as a metaphor
        in some of your posts. I am not a sports fan but a
        fan of the stories in humans. But I draw the line at
        unapologetic intimidating force. Physical, spiritual,

        In 1980 author Norman Mailer spearheads a petition
        to release killer, Jack Abbott, from prison due to his
        “sensitive” book In the Belly of the Beast. Within 6
        weeks of release Abbott brutally unjustifiably stabbed
        and killed a 22-year-old waiter.

        Just because a man can write sensitively doesn’t
        mean he is sensitive. Just because a man can
        overachieve in one area of his life doesn’t excuse
        his underachievement in an even more vital area
        of his life that viscerally impacts another human
        being through violence.

        Credibility is everything.

        I trust you realize that I don’t get my information from
        the media at large. They are not interested in facts.
        Or the truth. Only ratings and sensationalism. Witness
        what was done to Michael Jackson, Jon Bonet Ramsey
        case and many others. After his first case, I saw a very
        compelling PBS 2-hour documentary on The Media,
        Madness and Michael Jackson. A covert tape surfaced
        wherein the father of the boy comments that he can
        make a lot of money out of this performer. Jackson
        settled out of court at the advice of his lawyers but it
        doesn’t make him guilty. This is treacherous territory
        for any man to navigate. How does anyone unring
        that bell? His idiosyncrasies made him an easy target
        with a dubious trial and a prosecutor with the gleam
        of biblical proportions in his eyes. And the glare of the
        media (2,000 different stations outside the courtroom!)
        were sorely disappointed in his acquittal. I believe that
        the 2nd trial, the media frenzy and the prosecutorial
        witch-hunt broke Michael Jackson. He had exhibited
        a lot of grit during this terrible time, but I’m not sure if
        anyone could survive such an overwhelming onslaught.
        A life unravelling. It cuts to the bone.

        There is a pathology in sports now. Not all the players.
        I would like to elaborate but will wait to see if you wish
        me to continue. And am very curious about your further

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