In a recent interview, Manu Ginobili talked about what he misses, and what he doesn’t miss from the NBA life. He said he missed the locker room, the dinners and playing at a high level. But, the late-night travel, not knowing in which city you woke up, being exhausted and sore – he doesn’t miss that part. The mental exhaustion of an 82 game season is as intense as the physical one.
Now if you manage to go deep in the playoffs every year, that number goes over a 100 games a year. The cumulative effect of several championship runs requires a tremendous amount of discipline. LeBron once said playing 28 or 34 minutes makes no difference for him. The only true rest he gets is if he skips an entire game. His preparation for the games is planned to the last detail and he has to go through it whether the plays 3 or 33 minutes.
If there’s anyone to speak on the difficulty of repeating a title in the NBA, it’s the man with 6 rings. The two-year break playing baseball and golf surely helped, primarily from the mental side. But when you have 5 rings, do you feel like going through the summer working out, dealing with minor injuries, staying hungry enough to do all the little things that give you that edge? Only the greatest players have that hunger. Who better to explain it than His Airness.
Muhammad Ali explained it best: “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” Gearing yourself up for the gym and the road, that’s what makes a champion.