Does effort trump talent in the long run?
An interesting point was raised this week by my friend Charles, who always offers challenges to delve far deeper into athletes than to just describe their abilities in whatever game they may play.
Here it is:
Your piece on Tyler Hansbrough raises a perplexing issue: talent vs hard work. Which would you pick as an enduring feature of good-great NBA players?
Of course there is the handful of players with extraordinary talent who have a strong work ethic. M. Jordan worked very, very hard at his game and was reported to be unhappy with the over-emphasis on his natural ability: he wanted recognition for the many hours and hard work spent developing the "talent" (if that is what it is - I think "talent" may not be the best word for those who commit to maximum effort to develop their game and play every second hard).
Most players are not MJ, neither with natural ability nor with whatever it is that drives one to improve (self-discipline a big part of it).
Some players come into the NBA and never get better. Others have the commitment to work very hard and become exponentially better than they were when they entered ( Is Havlicek the best example of this ever?).
Of course it is usually some mix of talent and discipline to develop (better wording?) that characterizes most players.
In life it is the self-disciplined people who appear to emerge with the best outcomes.
The "talented" often fade with their years. Is the same true of the NBA players?
It’s a hugely interesting point, isn’t it? And it’s been everywhere this week, it seems.
We heard Dwane say that Hansbrough’s willingness to work and bang and hit every day is a true skill, I read a nice piece by my good friend Rick Bonnell in which former Raptor Patrick O’Bryant fully admitted to not working hard in his first NBA go-around and vowing to smarten up now because he gets it.
In a moment of lucidity back in the day, Kevin O’Neill would refuse to laud anyone for “playing hard” because that’s what you’re supposed to do but, truth be told, that’s Pollyannish because, sadly, that’s not how the world works.
To me, I’d suggest that consistent hard work is the thing that separates the pretenders; if you can maximize effort every day it moves you ahead of others who may be more skilled but unable to summon the energy to bring it every single day.
Of course, the combination of sublime skill and effort trumps all but that’s a rarity in anything.
People have bad or slow days at work where they might want to just sit and look at the souvenirs on the desk and daydream; the greats can do that but also get the job done to the best of their abilities.
It’s the same with athletes: It’s entirely understandable that some days won’t be as good as others, you’re tired, cranky, something’s going on at home or in life that is sapping some your energy.
But being able to put that aside and work is the singular enduring trait I’d want in a co-worker, a teammate, a friend.
It is the characteristic that allows those perhaps without as much skill to thrive, it’s what I’d want and what I think most coaches, bosses, teammates would want.
Just because I read something …
We’ve all heard Steve Nash speak often about why he decided to become the general manager of the national senior men’s basketball team.
It’s to serve as a mentor, as a role model, as an aid to develop the sport at every level across the country. It comes from a genuine love of for his country and his sport; a legitimate interest in giving back.
Now he’s scribbled some words about it so that a whole bunch of other people can see and understand why he’s done it.
Here you go. Not a whole lot new in here but it’s interesting nonetheless.
IGBT tonight, the weekly chat tomorrow at noon, the mailbag needs some help over at email@example.com. Yeah, I’d say we do interaction with the people pretty well and there’s no reason for any of you think you can’t reach me. So reach, would you?
Red Sox in six, by the way.
Saw a story in our paper that says they’ll raise a banner to the Air Canada Centre ceiling to honour Bon Jovi.
Did they run this past Drake or Hanna Montana?
We’re probably going to see something tonight that I can’t remember seeing in any of the first 2,380 pre-season games:
Starters on the floor in the fourth quarter.
Dwane has always held out that he’d wait until the final two pretend games to stretch out Lowry, DeRozan, Gay, Valanciunas and Johnson so I’m pretty certain we’ll see them later in games than we have so far.
And, really, two games is about the right amount of time to get something approximating a regular rotation down and to use a team’s top players somewhere in the 28-34 minute range so they can work together and play when the game might be on the line.
After all, it’s not like it’s an entirely new group trying to figure out how to play together, for the first time in a long time the starting lineup is going to consistent from the end of one season into the start of the next.
And they’re in shape – toss in the chunk of the summer they worked out either here or in L.A. and it’s been a long training period – so that’s not an issue.
The interesting thing is going to see who makes the jump into extended backup minutes, who becomes the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and maybe even 10th guy to play each night and how long they play.
As we’ve mentioned on more than a few occasions, I think the second string guys are going to be an issue and I would suspect Dwane is going to have to find a way to have at least two of his starters on the court at the same time.
How he massages that – does he play one of DeRozan and Gay the first 15 minutes, take one out after a quarter and bring him back for the final seven minutes of the half, does he take Valanciunas out after eight minutes and bring him back two minutes into the second quarter? How long can he live with both Johnson and Hansbrough on the court? Where does Novak fit? Does he trust Augustin or even Stone for extended minutes.
That’s the intriguing part, there is a fallacy floating around that a “second unit” is some five-man group that only plays together; it’s how he manages combinations that’s the biggest thing.