3 Lessons in Greatness from 3 NBA Legends
October 26, 2016

The 2016-2017 NBA season just started.

For true fans it marks the beginning of a rather emotional season. While excited for a new season of ball it also means we’re officially saying our difficult goodbyes to a few retiring stars.

It’s the first time in 21 years we will not turn on our TVs and see Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant. Three of the greatest to ever pick up the rock.

Over that 21 year stretch one of these 3 men has made it to the NBA final 15 times and held the championship banner high 11 times. 3 of the most dominate players in their respective positions who never disappointed the fans or their teammates.

21 Years. I can barely remember basketball before these guys.

First round Hall of Famers with no question.

They know a few things about leadership, hard work and what it takes to win.

Below are key life and business lessons you can pick up from the careers of these incredible sportsmen and competitors.

a2-sub-buzz-20400-1468883214-1 The Big Fundamental

I’d argue Tim Duncan was always slept on. Though one of the greatest power forwards of all time, many fans didn’t take him seriously. This is because Tim performed in silence. Know more for his quiet and humble nature, selflessness, lack of emotion at times he would always surpass you by whooping your favorite team in crunch time.

“When did THIS guy get 20 points?” is something every fan has asked themselves incredulously.

The perennial all-star, champion and MVP made sure to display his game with consistency every night. You knew he’d score and rebound in the double digits and never lose the ball, every single night.


Get the basics down first

Tim Duncan made basketball look incredibly simplistic & easy because of how well he understood the game.

This is because he started with the fundamentals. He kept it simple. He was the definition of text book.
Even when he dunked. It was so simple, almost clumsy.
No reaction. No yelling. Just a quiet jog back up the court. Every time!

“He’s not throwing behind-the-back passes, he’s not doing tomahawk jams, he’s not doing anything that’s very flashy. He’s just a very unassuming guy who goes about his job, and the next thing you know he’s got 23 points and 20 rebounds. ”
– Veteran NBA coach Byron Scott.

Tim was about substance over style. He never moved away from his fundamentals.

The lesson for entrepreneurs here is to be so good at the basic and fundamentals of business that you don’t need any pomp and circumstance or flash to succeed.

Tim knew one of the most fundamental rules of the game – 2 points is 2 points, SportsCenter highlight or not.

We should all take heed of this more often. How many entrepreneurs are too focused on competing with the next guy? Focusing on cars, offices, employees with the latest gadgets, etc…


Get back to the fundamentals. Simplify your game. Style doesn’t with this game. Consistency does.


The Big Ticket

Unlike his counterpart, Kevin Garnett will be revered as one of the most intense players of all time. KG came to work every single day with an unmeasurable amount of energy and vigor.

Garnett broke the mold and became the first player in 20 years to be drafted directly out of high school when he was the fifth pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. From his first game to his last a fire blazed in him that has yet to be matched in the league today.

Intensity wins moments

Ever the stubborn and fierce competitor KG never let up when he was on the court. He never took a play off. Or a practice off. Even when he was hurt.

Forget that, KG worked himself up before every single game so much that he’d be drenched in sweat. Before doing a single warm up drill.

Even after the whistle had blown, KG was infamous for never giving his opponents the physiological edge. Most players will take a free shot after a dead ball to boost their confidence and get into a rhythm. As you’ll see, KG never took a moment off and made sure to swat every free shot out of the rim. Nothing was for free.

Maintain the highest level of focus, motivation and intensity for your business. Success is fleeting and has its ups and downs. Wake up every day with the same amount of intensity KG came with. So intense it’s almost scary at times. But that’s what required to win.

“Coffee and Gatorade. It’s a hell of a mix. If you’re ever tired in the morning, just try that mix, and tell me what you think.”

KG, in his own language, taught us that anything indeed is possible. Maybe don’t make your employees cry on the bench though.


“You can’t teach the beast. It’s either in you or it isn’t. You can’t just go to the store and buy a six-pack of beast. It don’t work like that.”

Be the beast.


The Black Mamba

5 time NBA champion, scoring champion, MVP, the closest we’ll get to Michael Jordan.

Kobe Bryant was an assassin with an unparalleled work ethic.

From the moment he stepped into the league at age 17 he displayed the cockiness, cajones and hell bent desire to become the best of all time. Then he put in the work to achieve it.


Never stop shooting

Kobe Bryant redefined hard work.

He was unapologetic about his discipline and what it took to be one of the greatest players to play the game.

A quick search online will pull up countless practice stories.

This being the most legendary:

Rob had worked with some of the other members of the USA basketball team before, but this would be his first interaction with Kobe. It was so powerful, that he shared it with the world on Reddit so everyone could get a glimpse into Kobe Bryant’s insane work ethic.

Here is his story:

In his first meeting with Kobe, Rob talked about what he specialized in, where Kobe would like to be by the end of summer, and about the hustle of his teammates. Rob then gave Kobe his number and told him to call him any time he wanted to do some extra conditioning work.

Two days later, Kobe woke up Rob with a call at 4:15am in the morning.

“Hey, uhh Rob, I hope I’m not disturbing anything right?”

“Uhh no, what’s up Kobe?”

“Just wondering if you could just help me out with some conditioning work, that’s all.”

“Yeah sure, I’ll see you in the facility in a bit.”

20 minutes later, Rob arrived at the training facility. There he saw Kobe–alone and drenched in so much sweat it looked like he’d just come from a pool. It was not even 5am yet!

The two of them worked on conditioning for about 75 minutes, then did about 45 minutes of weight training. Then at 7am, Rob went back to his hotel to get some quick rest before the day’s practice. Meanwhile, Kobe went back to the gym to practice his shooting.

Rob was expected back at 11am. So he slept a couple of hours, got a quick breakfast, and then headed back to the gym exhausted and sleep deprived.

When he arrived, he saw all of the members of Team USA there. Lebron was talking to Carmelo, Coach Krzyzewski was explaining something to Kevin Durant and, on the right side of the facility all by himself, Kobe was shooting jumpers.

Rob went up to Kobe and said, “Good work this morning.”


“Like, the conditioning. Good work.”

“Oh. Yeah, thanks Rob. I really appreciate it.”

“So when did you finish?”

“Finish what?”

“Getting your shots up. What time did you leave the facility?”

“Oh just now. I wanted 800 makes…so yeah, just now.”

Rob’s jaw dropped.

Kobe was drenched in sweat before 5am, worked with Rob on strength and conditioning for 2 hours, then made 800 shots between the hours of 7am and 11am.

And this all took place before practice!

At 34 years of age, with 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player awards, 2 scoring titles, and soon to be 2 Olympic Gold Medals, Kobe was still waking up before 4am and working out for at least 7 hours before practice even began!

Moreover, Kobe practiced with purpose.

Later, as he toweled down and sat for an interview, he was asked if he had a certain shooting routine.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I go from spot to spot. Today I quit when I made 400 shots.”

How do you know?

“What do you mean, How do I know? I know because I counted them.”

Are you counting your shots? If you want to improve your business, your sales, your success what are you doing over and over and over again to achieve that? How much time are you truly putting in? How much work are you really doing?

Kobe practiced relentlessly. He poured over tapes of the game’s greatest to learn their signature moves and poured over more tape of himself to improve his weaknesses. His disciplined approach to perfecting his craft was unmatched.

For us to achieve the levels of success we dream of each day, our work ethic it behind it has to match the magnitude of our dreams.


“To think of me as a person that’s overachieved, that would mean a lot to me. That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could.”

Kobe was so determined to be the greatest that he did everything in his power to be the best. His last game will show you that he literally left every ounce of will and strength behind on the court every night. He set a goal for the legacy and career he wanted and put a plan in place to accomplish it. Then he worked harder than everyone else to achieve it.

Set yours today and then action the hell out of it!

z-14693654_155222161606832_6201473093664243712_nIt’s been more than 20 years since the NBA had no Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan, and it may take another 20 years or more to find a trio of outgoing starts who achieved so much. 

There will never be someone as quiet and deadly as Duncan, intense as Garnett or have the killer instinct as Kobe.

To be as great as these guys it takes focus, sacrifice, raw willpower and never ending hard work.

TD, KG and KB. We’ll miss you.

Happy for the years I got to grow up watching you play my favorite game.

Basketball won’t be the same without your mark!

What athletes inspire you to work hard? Leave a comment below and share your encouragement.

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