Most mornings I get up around 4:30 AM and try to be at my local gym to workout around 5:00 AM. It's your typical commercial fitness center with a broad selection of weights, strength machines and cardio contraptions. While lifting I like to listen to my iPod, but when I am on the cardio machines I like to watch the overhead TVs and switch between channels - usually landing on SportsCenter™.
This time of year is my favorite because football has ended, and baseball hasn't started. From the first of February until the first of April you have both college and NBA basketball, and they dominate the ESPN Top Ten Plays of the Day™. Sure, there is the occasional hockey or soccer clip, but usually it is high-flying dunks, blocks and loooooong 3-pointers from top to bottom.
Now - I like these spectacular displays of athleticism, but there are a couple of things I notice.
- There is seldom if ever a mention of the fantastic pass that lead to the great play, unless that pass was a lob for an alley-oop dunk.
- There is never highlight of the well timed and perfectly positioned screen that got a player open at just the right time.
- I've never seen a player recognized for playing excellent on-ball/off-ball defense.
Just once I'd like the play of the day to be highlights of the guy who is the defensive stopper on a team, and the clip shows the pressure he put on that caused the opponents best shooter to finish with less than half of their normal average.
I'd like to see a highlight of the 6th man, who came in and lifted the intensity of his team by blocking out hard and chasing down loose balls, who handed out a quick assist, and then spent the next 5 minutes on the bench being the loudest and most active cheerleader for his team.
In case you missed it, Nick Collison wrote a fantastic blog post for GQ titled "How To Survive in the NBA When You're Not a Superstar
". It contains tremendously valuable advice for every player. The key idea is that as you continue your career in basketball and move from level to level, all but the most elite athletes eventually find themselves out of the spotlight and trying to find their role on a team where they no longer are the superstar.
We see kids at the high school level struggle with this every year. Frequently they were the star of their Junior High team, so when they could have played up as a 9th grader, they stayed down with the JH team. Now as a sophomore, they expect to be a varsity starter. Some have an unrealistic sense of their abilities, and worse, don't grasp the things they need to do to earn the playing time that is available.
Some of Collison's advice:
- You [create value for yourself] by embracing your role and focusing on things other than scoring.
- Become really good at things like screening, passing, defending pick and rolls, communicating, boxing out and rotating defensively.
- Have the focus to do all those little thinks over and over again, knowing you aren't going to get a lot of credit.
Obviously his comments about pay don't apply, but with few exceptions the best teams at every level are made up of a couple players with very high ability for that level of play, surround by players who are at the highest level they are going to achieve, but have figured out the little things to make themselves valuable and contribute to the team.