Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shut Up and Be Happy That He is Happy: The Courage of Jason Collins

The NBA's Jason Collins is a very courageous man.  I respect and support what he has done (not that he has asked me).  I apologize for us making it so difficult and for it to have taken so long. I can't imagine the struggle of having to keep such a "secret" to oneself for so long.  

However, the news isn't that he is gay.  The news is that some of us still think that we were better off when he was in the closet.  Some of us think Jason Collins was better off staying in the closet. There are people who somehow think that we were better off not knowing.  Perhaps, some of us feel better protected and safer when he was in the closet.

All we know is that he decided to inform us that he is primarily attracted to men.  Period.  Not because we needed to know, but because he needed relief from being someone who he knew he wasn't.  He almost married a woman, at least partly because he thought we needed him to.

Some of us condemn him for his choices.  Evidence strongly suggests that he is no more in control of his sexual preferences that the rest of us. How he deals with those preferences, now that is another matter.

We don't know who he has slept with.  It's none of my business.  It's none of our business what consenting adult he sleeps with in the future.  His twin brother, Jarron, doesn't know who he slept with or didn't sleep with.  Nevertheless, there are people who think that Jason is a sinner (because of what he has chosen to reveal about himself, not because of what he has done or not done with his preferences).

Coming out is not a crime or a sin.  The real sin is shunning or condemning a man without knowing the man or his actions.  There are people who feel that Jason Collins has violated their religious beliefs and their moral code.  Despite living in a country founded on and based on religious freedom, some of us continue to deny others that right.

I respect you, Jason Collins, for lifting the burden off of your shoulders in spite of the possible dangers and consequences that we insist on creating for you.  Let's hope that it helps others to unburden themselves of their secrets (whether they inform us publicly or not).

Also, thank you for putting up a mirror to our own sense of values and ethics.  Are we ready to accept and support a gay athlete?  I trust most of us are.  Most importantly, I hope we can live up to your courage.



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kevin Garnett: Unwavingly High Standards

One of the crucial personality and behavioral characteristics of peak performers is "unwaveringly high standards."

The Boston Celtics are the most storied and successful team in NBA history. Banners hang from the rafters in their new arena depicting their past glory and multiple championships.

In 2007, Boston Celtics went 24-58, easily missing the playoffs. Included in this horrible season was an 18-game losing streak.

One year later, the Celtics began the 2007-2008 season with a 30-4 record, a team record, and the fourth best start in NBA history. The season end with the Celtics taking the NBA championship home with them.

Danny Ainge, the Boston Celtics' general manager acquired Ray Allen from the Seattle Supersonics and eight-time NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves. These acquisitions, designed to instantly turnaround and re-invent a stagnant franchise, have been celebrated for fast results and a completely different team climate.

The team appeared to have a renewed focus and a sense of pride not existent in recent years in Boston. What could be the reason? Many think it is Kevin Garnett. 

Kevin Garnett Getting Ready to Do Battle

"KG is unique in that regard. It's important to his game to get himself pumped up, to make sure when he steps on the court that it is the most important thing in his life for 48 minutes. He might be the best at it.

"Maybe it's a function of my age, but I kind of like it. Amusing isn't the right word, because that's too flippant. More like intriguing, or interesting. Any coach would love a player as focused as Kevin."

--San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, on how Kevin Garnett gets himself ready for games. 

The Difference in the Boston Celtics:  KG's Leadership

"This is my seventh year in the NBA. I've been to the finals twice, and those teams were great. But they were not like this team. And the reason why is Kevin Garnett.

"The media perception about Garnett is real. When Kevin walks into the facility and the weight room, he jokes around and makes fun of guys. But then about 15 minutes before practice, it's all focus. It's all work."

"If he is not clear about something, we don't move on until we are all clear. He solves a lot of problems. I mean, I've played with good players. I played with Jason Kidd, and Kidd is an incredible gamer. But he was never as demanding of his teammates the way Kevin is. Not half as much. Not a quarter as much."

"The impact of one person can be immense. It's much larger than in any other sport. So when you add Kevin Garnett, the defensive intelligence he brings is huge. It's not just that he's adding 20 points and 10 rebounds a night. There are other guys who can get you 20 and 10 who are not the player that he is. He demands a different level of focus from everybody."

--Brian Scalabrine, veteran NBA forward who played on the 2006-2007 Celtic team.

Taken from PLAY Magazine, March 2008.
Can High Standards Affect A Team's Culture?:  The KG Effect

"The whole face of the Celtics turned around when the trade happened with this guy. Everyone talks about MVP, and they talk about numbers, but this guy has changed the whole culture around here."
--Paul Pierce, veteran Boston Celtic all-star.

from ESPN.com, 3/27/08
South African concept of selflessness, unity and teamwork

"When the team is elevated, the individual is elevated; when the team is diminished, the individual is diminished."

"The strength of a team is its players; the strength of the players is the team."

Ubuntu is an ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other. The word has its origin in the Bantu languages of Southern Africa. Ubuntu is seen as a traditional African concept.

Ubuntu was introduced to the Boston Celtics by head coach Doc Rivers. The Celtics have chanted "ubuntu" when breaking a huddle since the start of the 2007-2008 season. It proved to be successful as Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and veteran Celtic Paul Pierce blended their talents with the other teammates to win an NBA championship. The championship was an example of great individual talent yielding to the team concept.

"A person is a person through another person. I can't be all I can be unless you are all you can be.

"There's an amazing amount of hurt that goes with that. The only way you're going to win is that you've got to open yourself up to hurt. You've got to open yourself up and go for it. You may have to pass more, you may have to set an extra pick you may have to dive on the floor for a loose ball.

"You can't do it by yourself. Individuals don't win, teams win."

--Doc Rivers.

Excerpts from the New York Times and Wikipedia, 10/5/2008.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Marcus Lattimore Tries Another Comeback

"Adversity Introduces a Man to Himself."  
--Marcus Lattimore, former University of South Carolina running back.

Despite one serious knee injury, Lattimore was projected to be the most coveted collegiate running back in the 2013 NFL draft as the 2012 college football season opened.  However, during that season, he injured his knee for the second time in as many years in a game against the Tennessee Volunteers.  He torn three ligaments and many thought his professional football was over before it began.

Lattimore is engaged in the second major rehabilitation of his football life and reportedly working as hard as ever to prepare for the NFL.

Today, Lattimore is anxiously waiting to see if NFL teams will take a chance on him.  

Excerpts from ESPN.com (April 25, 2013).  For more, including video, click on:


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Injury Recovery and the Elite Athlete: Can and Will Kobe Bryant Recover and Come Back to the NBA?

NOTE:  This post was researched and written prior to the Boston Marathon bombing.  My heart goes out to the victims and families that have been harmed by this tragedy.  I hope that this post assists in their healing.  The article is not intended in any way to diminish or show disrespect or ignorance of the personal sensitivity and pain endured during this period of grief.  

Here is Kobe Bryant's entire Facebook post following his season-ending achilles tendon injury:

"This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I've done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen ?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I'm supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that??  I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me...Then again maybe not! It's 3:30am, my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I'm wide awake. Forgive my Venting but what's the purpose of social media if I won't bring it to you Real No Image?? Feels good to vent, let it out. To feel as if THIS is the WORST thing EVER! Because After ALL the venting, a real perspective sets in. There are far greater issues/challenges in the world then a torn achilles. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever.
One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.
"If you see me in a fight with a bear, prey for the bear". Ive always loved that quote. Thats "mamba mentality" we don't quit, we don't cower, we don't run. We endure and conquer.
I know it's a long post but I'm Facebook Venting LOL. Maybe now I can actually get some sleep and be excited for surgery tomorrow. First step of a new challenge.
Guess I will be Coach Vino the rest of this season. I have faith in my teammates. They will come thru.
Thank you for all your prayers and support. Much Love Always.
Mamba Out"
Many people have seen this Facebook entry.  What is important to recognize is that Kobe Bryant went through all the stages of grief in one fell swoop in his Facebook rant. Rarely do we get to see the human vulnerability of a superstar immediately after an injury or any other type of trauma. It was a very personal and instructional look into the mindset of a very, mentally tough individual.

The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our reaction to loss.

This social media entry gives us an idea of what it takes for any athlete to recover and deal with a serious injury, regardless of the level of play or expertise.  However, it also gives us a special and unique insight as to the resilient mindset of an elite athlete.

“Generally speaking, these elite athletes go through an initial period of anger, and usually that’s pretty quick. They don’t dwell on that long. Then they get resolved to, what’s my best way to get back? Once that switch flips, they generally speaking do not want to waste any time. At that point, they want it done now. Rarely will you see anybody delay.”
--Dr. Neal ElAttrache, Director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship program at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. the doctor who performed surgery on Kobe Bryant’s ruptured Achilles tendon.

The doctor expects the Los Angeles Lakers star to be back playing at some point next NBA season. Speaking exclusively to the Los Angeles Times, Dr. ElAttrache said Sunday that Bryant’s competitive drive and mental toughness will give him an edge in recovering from an injury that figures to sideline him at least six to nine months.

"We're talking about a unique competitive spirit," said Jeff Van Gundy, a former NBA coach who is an ESPN analyst. "A great player."

"He had the determination to become a great player," Van Gundy said. "Also a love of the game which not many guys are able to retain after so many years."

It remains to be seen if Kobe Bryant can come back from this serious injury.  It will take time and much mental and physical hard work.  If this glimpse of his grief process, his competitive fire and mental toughness is a good clue, he will give it all that he has. 

Excerpts from TMZ.com (April 13, 2013), latimes.com and thespec.com (April 14, 2013).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Miami Heat's Ray Allen is "Automatic"

"Shoot your same shot over and over, and don't have wasted shots.  That's one thing we all noticed. Anytime we're just shooting around, or even playing a game of H-O-R-S-E, he's serious, he's shooting the shot he's going to shoot in the game.

"Whether he's joking around or not, he shoots the same shot. I find myself telling myself, 'Shoot your same shot all the time,' because for him, his shot is automatic."

--Norris Cole, Miami Heat guard, discussing teammate Ray Allen's approach to shooting.

Excerpt from espn.go.com (April 12, 2013).