“When we play in the Olympics, the physicality in the Olympics is actually — they’re more physical than the NBA is. It’s the silliest thing in the world. The NBA used to be the toughest, strongest league in the world, and now it’s not that.
On what he looks for in a player:
“I always say there’s four things that make up a good player on a good team: No. 1 is talent. No. 2 is toughness. You’ve gotta be a tough kid, mentally, emotionally, physically. You can’t break down and whine about calls, or I didn’t get a shot, or this didn’t go my way. No. 3 you’ve gotta love playing. ‘Do you play all the time? Are you a gym rat’? And No. 4, character. I look at their demeanor on the floor, their behavior.”
I’m sad to report that former NBA power forward Maurice Lucas has passed away. Today I write about ‘Toughness’ in our 90 Day Basketball Improvement Plan.
Day 65 – Toughness
Nobody ever said it would be easy; that goes for life and basketball. Being tough means shaping up, getting it together and giving all you have. It’s pushing yourself when you feel like giving up. It’s having the guts to bust through the wall.
It’s not grabbing your shorts and bending down while on the free-throw line. Toughness is not allowing the opponent see you when you’re tired.
Maurice Lucas was one of the toughest power forwards the league has ever seen. He lost his battle with cancer yesterday and passed away. The New York Times on the man Bill Walton calls, ‘The greatest Blazer ever.”
“I played very hard and very physical, but I thought I also played pretty smart because I studied my opponents rabidly,” he told The New York Times in 2004. “So I knew their tendencies and things I could take away from them on defense.”
How tough are you when it comes to basketball? Are you tough and smart? Do you set screens for your teammates? Do you pursue rebounds? Do you get up and defend as hard as possible?
Toughness isn’t beating people up with your fists on the court. It’s about not backing down when someone tries to ‘punk’ you.
Toughness isn’t just physical, its mental; you can’t get yourself into top physical condition if you are not mentally tough to train.
When you get knocked down, make sure you are tough enough to get back up.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
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Last season ESPN’s Jay Bilas wrote a great piece on ‘toughness’. I thought it was a great read; one of the greatest pieces of advice on the game ever! Everyone raved about it; coaches all across America printed it and posted it in their locker rooms. They also passed it around as a hand-out.
Bilas did a great job breaking it down on what it took to get things done on the court, especially on a toughness level.
The game of basketball, especially at the highest level, is not for the weak. The higher in level you go, the tougher you need to be. (When I say tough, I don’t mean fist-fighting)
Here’s my take on toughness. The next few days I will break down different aspects of the game and where toughness factors in.
We all know about Allen Iverson’s ‘practice’ rant, one of the most played video clips of all-time; regardless of what A.I. said, practice is the backbone to a player’s success. It’s where you get your extra shooting in, you work on conditioning, and most of all, you get to spend time with your teammates running the offense and working together on the defensive end. It’s where you learn defensive principles, concepts and where you see who can help you on game day.
I once read a great quote about Michael Jordan being the greatest practice player in the history of basketball. I also found this from Adrian W. of Yahoo Sports on Jerry Krause.
“Michael absolutely killed Scottie in practice every day for his first two years. Mike just tore Pip up. He made Pip learn how to compete and forced him into playing hard. Had there not been someone to challenge Scottie like that, I’m not sure what would’ve happened to him.”
What if Jordan had not went after Scottie Pippen hard in practice every day? Would Scottie have been as great as he turned out?
You need to compete every day in practice; regardless if your best friend or roommate is guarding you in a scrimmage game or even if you are competing against them in a drill.
Here’s a piece on Jordan from ESPN’s Melissa Isaacson.
“We’d run a three-man shooting drill in practice,” longtime assistant Johnny Bach recalled. “And Michael always made sure he had the threesome he wanted. Not Trent Tucker, not Johnny Paxson, not Craig Hodges [among the best 3-point shooters in the league].
“He’d say, ‘I’m calling my pigeons up to shoot.’ They were shooting for some remuneration. He’d force himself to shoot under pressure. He needed a challenge to beat [Scottie] Pippen. He knew Horace [Grant] had a nice shot. He’d also throw some wicked passes to [his shooters]. You’re supposed to honor the code to throw a good pass to the shooter, but he had a way of throwing screwballs and sinkers. Not that he would have tolerated that. That was imperial Michael at his best.”
“Run it back, run it back,” is what Michael yelled when his team lost. It is what he said whenever he had lost.
Run it back, run it back is something that needs to be said over and over in practice if you expect to improve. Is it any wonder the greatest player in the history of basketball was arguably the greatest practice player of all-time?
Here are a couple of practice tips that all players can use:
Come prepared to practice hard every day. (Focus)
Take meaningful shots to warm up
Run the floor hard
Pay attention to the coaching staff
Challenge your teammates
Stay after practice and work on your offensive moves.
Get in extra shooting