Inspirational Stories From the NBA Players Top 100 Camp

I have been involved with the annual NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp since 2005. I worked the camp in 2005 and 2006, then took two years off because of a scheduling conflict, and have resumed in 2009 and 2010.

Even though the campers, the NBA players and the guest speakers were different this year, the overall mission was the same. And the four day experience was as remarkable as ever. This camp is about so much more than basketball. It is about character, about avoiding “career killers,” and about truly deserving success.

Here are a few inspirational stories of success I heard at camp:

Tom Izzo's First Practice

Do you know what Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo had his team do at their first practice of the 1999-2000 season? No shooting drills. No ball-handling drills. No defense, no rebounding, no passing, and no sprints. At the first practice he had his players practice cutting down the nets. That's right, they practiced cutting down the nets!

It must have worked because less than six months later Coach Izzo and the Spartans did cut down the nets at the RCA Dome after they beat Florida for the national championship. Success can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Michael Jordan's Dedication

During the end of the 1996-1997 regular season, Tim McCormick of the NBPA had an opportunity to go watch a Chicago Bulls practice. The Bulls were pursuing their 2nd straight (and 5th overall) NBA Championship and had set an NBA record with 72 wins the previous season. As excited as he was to be there, he was a little disappointed because he assumed he wouldn't get to see Michael Jordan practice. After all, the Bulls just played four games in five nights and he assumed MJ would take a well deserved day off. Especially since they won all four of those games and his Airness had scored something like 38, 42, 46, and 34 points (and played over 40 minutes each game).

Much to his surprise, MJ showed up 45 minutes before practice. He began with some form shooting and then quickly moved to a variety of up-tempo shooting drills (using an assistant coach as a rebounder). He got up around 200 shots. He was focused and intense and was in a full lather of sweat by the time the rest of the team arrived.

Sensing his team needed a light day, Phil Jackson told the team that practice was only going to consist of a scrimmage to 20 baskets. MJ proceeded to score 12 of his team’s baskets and assisted on three others. He dove for loose balls and even took a charge! Needless to say, his team won easily.

On a day when Michael Jordan deserved to take a day off and rest, he still outworked everyone and gave 100 percent. His commitment to excellence and his competitive fire never stopped. Michael Jordan wasn’t great by accident.

Kevin Durant's Leadership Skills

Sam Presti, the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, shared these reasons as to why Kevin Durant is an NBA superstar:

  • KD is a notable teammate. He has relationships with everyone in the organization. From the guy who sweeps the floor to the team owner.
  • KD is an impressive practice player. As hard as he plays in games, he practices even harder. He knows that improvement comes from practice.
  • KD is focused on the process and on the long term. He isn’t in search of a magic bullet. He embraces slow, incremental gains. He knows greatness takes time.
  • KD takes care of his body. He lifts weights year round, ices after games, eats well, and isn’t a party animal. His commitment shows in his daily workouts.
  • KD is the team’s unofficial offseason leader. He organizes group workouts and pick-up games. Wherever he is, he is always setting up places to play and inviting (and encouraging) his teammates to join him.
  • KD absolutely loves to play basketball. His passion is pure. He respects the game.

Chris Paul’s Work Ethic

Steve Kostorowski, Chris Paul's longtime personal trainer, sent an email with the subject line: "Things CP does in the offseason before most guys are even out of bed!"

  • Wakes up at 5 a.m.
  • Drives to the gym.
  • Does a thorough warm-up.
  • Does 30 minutes of injury prevention and corrective exercises.
  • Does between 500-750 abdominal crunches.
  • Lifts between 4,000-5,000 pounds with every major muscle group (legs, chest, back, etc.).
  • Does a variety of balance and coordination drills.
  • Performs 1,000 reps of jump rope.
  • Does 40 minutes of on-court ball handling and conditioning.
  • Eats a nutritious breakfast (post-workout meal).

Why You SHOULD Be a Good Shooter

There is no excuse for not being a good shooter. Shooting is a matter of practice. There has never been a great shooter who didn’t shoot every day. But you can’t just be a casual shooter. You need to pay close attention to correct mechanics, proper footwork, and progressing to the point where you are taking game shots, from game spots, at game speed. Take a look at how some "extra" shooting adds up:

  • 100 extra shots x 5 days a week x 50 weeks a year = 25,000 extra shots a year
  • 200 extra shots x 5 days a week x 50 weeks a year = 50,000 extra shots a year
  • 400 extra shots x 5 days a week x 50 weeks a year = 100,000 extra shots a year

How could you not be a great shooter if you took an extra 100,000 shots a year?! Why aren’t you doing it?

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