With all that’s going around in the world of professional basketball, it may seem, to a young and aspiring basketball player, that it takes an awful lot to become great and successful one day.
Think about it: if you are undersized, you have to be fast at least. You have to be agile, too. You need to be able to jump high, have a good outside shooting, and have adequate handles. You should be a solid defender, too, and with a good sense of the open court on a fast break. For big guys, it used to be simple: be big. Rebound, block shots, and break their morale every once in a while with a dunk. Not anymore. Bigs are expected the same skill set. There should be speed, agility, vertical leap, shooting, handles, and defense.
To comply with such a rigorous checklist should’ve been enough, but not today.
Many kids today seem to get the impression that they need swag in their game too, and thrash talk in their vocabulary. And egos as big as the coliseum they want to one day be able to play in, so they begin harnessing their superstar ego at a young age so that it is big enough for them to take part in all the useless drama that has become a regular sidebar in professional basketball.
If you are a young basketball player and you believe you need all of these to become successful, that is very overwhelming and very unnecessary. The mindset should take a reset, I think. You don’t have to be a little bit something of every great and popular basketball player to be good yourself.
It’s quite simple really: be like Manu Ginobili.
If you want to aspire to be someone, be like him. He may not have that cool superstar nickname, and his jersey sales may be average at best. His highlight reel may not be as legendary, but a long list of achievements in the NBA and FIBA capped by 4 NBA championships and a Hall of Fame jacket are enough to convince you this man, 57th overall in the 1999 rookie draft, is the gold standard of playing basketball the right way, starting from the bottom and grinding his way to the top.
Play hard. Play smart. And play with all your heart—as a second unit uniform, as a starter, and as a star.
Manu Ginobili’s induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame is a reminder, not just of what the NBA has lost when he left and retired, but also of what is lacking in today’s basketball: class.
Instead, we are inundated by everything that is crass—players earning multi-million dollar paychecks, who are playing half-heartedly, ditching their teams when things do not go their way, and pushing their coaches and teammates under the bus, demanding too much while giving too little.
When I read about what’s happening in professional basketball, I can’t help but feel like everything is going the wrong way. Players are being paid a lot more money now if we compare salaries of different eras. But instead of players whose level of basketball reflects their appreciation for their good fortune and blessing, what we have now are petty, irresponsible, prima donnas. The rules we have now are meant to protect players from getting hurt. What it got us are players with this very irritating habit of always asking for a foul in every possession, and that constant show of indignation when they are whistled for fouling on defense.
Manu is one of the select few who found success—long-term success, mind you – in the NBA when many people believed he is not good enough to be here. The lesson his legacy leaves behind is simple: play hard. No drama. It is not needed during the season, and it is just as useless in the off-season.
Come to practice. Get in shape. Stay focused on playing basketball. Be a good teammate. Be coachable. Collaborate. Learn. Evolve. Matter. All of these things are never easy, but these should be enough. Don’t take on the extra burden of becoming a drama king. While it may get you social media clout, it will not reflect on the stat sheets, and that is where it matters.
Success is hard. Superstardom is hard. Cheap stunts are easier. Complaining is easier. Leaving is easier. Making excuses is easier, and it remains to be seen if what’s easy is enough for a respectable enough legacy. We want to be remembered because we are good, and not because we’re just an incessantly annoying distraction.
I remember one of the very memorable Michael Jordan catchphrases: Be Like Mike. But what does it mean to be like Mike? It means working hard. It means zoning out everything unnecessary or useless or counterintuitive to what you want to achieve. It means focusing on the obstacles in your life and overcoming them. It means facing strong, even stronger, opponents, and defeating them.
Yes, it also means putting on an amazing display of offensive prowess, defensive tenacity, hang time, and killer instinct while playing on a big stage with bright lights.
If asking to be like Mike is asking a lot, then start with this:
Be Like Manu.
Greatness by way of the Euro-step. Because not everyone can fly.