Early in my NBA career I was lucky enough to spend a week with an older player (I won’t name who it was) that ended up being named one of the 50 greatest players ever.
I had NOTHING to do with him making that list. We spent a week working together on a very small habit near the end of his career. He was already great. I learned more from him than he learned from me.
But there are two things you can take out of his story. The first was the habit we identified working on. We talked about his balance, which he said was important to him. I then asked the player if he knew what his feet looked like when he landed. He admitted that he didn’t. So we shot a few shots with him being mindful of whatever his habits were.
“I land with all my weight on one foot and my other foot kicked out in front of me” he finally said.
“Correct,” I answered. “How do you feel about that?”
“I don’t like it. I’m completely off balance, and I’ve rotated my body. I mean, it happens in games, but it shouldn’t be my habit.”
So we went to work on that habit. How your feet finish at the end of your shot will play a huge role in the success of your shot. If your feet finish rotated, then you’ve turned your energy away from the hoop as you shoot. You can still make shots, but it’s harder. You have to quickly create energy in the opposite direction to compensate.
But if you can land in the same foot position, you’ll keep your shot more simple and easy to repeat.
That’s the first thing we can learn from this player. The second thing is even more important.
Once we talked about the habit, he then shot a shot. And then he did something so simple but remarkable. He looked down at his feet.
He was paying me for my help, but he understood that I was there to offer situations to practice in and advice. HE was actually responsible for building the habits. He was going to hold himself accountable (and I would help).
Then the next day he took that to the next level. He said, “hey, I was in the pool with the kids last night and I was throwing my daughter up in the air. And I was trying to land on balance at the end.”
I wanted to hug him. He understood. He was going to build a new habit. He was going to find ways to think about the habit until he had done it in so many situations that he didn’t need to think about it anymore.
That is how you become one of the best players ever. By holding yourself accountable to getting 1% better, over and over again.