24 Life Lessons Learned From The NBA

Domenic Gareri / Shutterstock.com
Domenic Gareri / Shutterstock.com

The NBA season is just around the corner and as I watched Kobe make his first shot of the preseason, I thought it’d be cool to think of 24 ways the NBA has taught us about life. Without further delay, here are the 24 ways.

1. Hindsight is 20/20.

The other day my office mate and I were talking about Kobe and he asked me: “Did you know that Kobe wasn’t drafted by the Lakers?” and followed that up with “He was drafted by the Hornets.” To this I responded, “Yeah, he was traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.” To this he said: “WORST TRADE EVER”.

OK, obviously in hindsight it doesn’t seem to be a fair trade at all considering what Kobe has accomplished and what became of Vlade (some of you might even be wondering who Vlade Divac is…he might have made an appearance in the 1994 version of NBA Jam for the Lakers, I don’t know), but AT THE TIME, the only person who truly understood the value of Kobe (other than Kobe) was probably…Jerry West.

Look at it this way: Kobe was the thirteenth pick of the draft. That means that 12 other general managers passed on him before he got snatched up and traded right away. These general managers are paid enormous sums of money to create contenders (most of the time, but not always) for a living which means they probably have a lot more access to resources and intel than you and I. And these GMs still picked the likes of Vitaly Potapenko, Todd Fuller, and Lorenzen Wright over Kobe.

We can look back at Kobe’s accomplishments now and say that it was the worst trade ever, but at the time in 1996, only Jerry West and Kobe knew who Kobe could become. And that’s why they’re the legends that they are.

2. You first need to fail before you succeed.

After Kobe and Shaq came to the Lakers and Van Exel and Eddie Jones developed, there were eventually 4 all stars on the Lakers by the 98-99 season. It seemed that a championship was inevitable. But before the Lakers “dynasty” began, Kobe had to airball a couple of infamous threes against the Jazz and feel the heartbreak before they had the experience to get past the Sacramento Kings (or “Queens” according to Shaq) and the (Jail) Blazers in a couple of difficult playoff series in following years.

It was the same for any great team or player: Jordan had to get over the “Bad Boys” Pistons, the Pistons over the Celtics, and Lebron had to lose to the Spurs first (in 2007) and then the Mavericks later before he finally got his well deserved crown.

Jordan put it more eloquently when he said: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan

3. “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

Michael Jordan

4. It’s hard to win a championship without a great coach.

Jordan was stacking up scoring titles and MVP’s, but he couldn’t get over the hump until Phil Jackson guided the Bulls to their first championships. And before the Lakers dynasty, Phil Jackson also had to hone the potential of his players. (Maybe it should actually be “it’s hard to win a championship without Phil Jackson”). Either way, behind every championship there is a great coach (Poppovich, Doc Rivers, etc.) that leads the way. In your life, it could be a mentor, a teacher, or a parent. You may have the tools, but you also need the map, the compass, the encouragement, and the knowledge to get you to your intended destination.

5. Windows of opportunity to win are small.

There can only be one champion every year, so you have to really play your pieces right when it comes to winning. When Jordan left to go play baseball, the Houston Rockets seized the moment and came up with two championships and helped Hakeem build his legacy. That was an opportunity. A missed opportunity for a championship was when the Thunder thought too much about the salary cap and having to pay for both Harden and Ibaka so they traded away James Harden for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb. And now, instead of winning championships every year with three Olympians, the Thunder are stuck as contenders without that extra push (that Harden would’ve been).

The point is that you have to act now and seize the opportunity if you want to win! Ask that girl out, go for that dream job, tell your friends and family you love them, and go on that dream vacation, whatever! Just do it!

6. Chemistry is important.

Everybody thought that when the Lakers brought in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in 2012 that a championship was in the bag. The same thing happened when the Lakers brought in Gary Payton and Karl Malone in 2003. Just because you have four aces and stack your team doesn’t mean the entity that is the team itself will succeed.

In human dynamics, there are too many moving parts, too many human elements to consider before predicting success and failure. A system is more than the sum of its parts and development takes time. Above all though, in any relationship or team, ya’ll just gotta mesh and get along.

7. It ain’t over till it’s over.

From Derek Fisher’s 0.4 second shot to beat the Spurs in game 5 of the 2004 playoffs to T-Mac’s 13 in 35 second masterpiece finish also over the Spurs and Ray Allen’s baseline three to tie the game in the final seconds of game 6 of the 2013 Finals ALSO against the Spurs are testaments to the old saying it ain’t over till it’s over.

8. Sometimes sensations come out of nowhere.

Undrafted, unheralded, and on the brink of being cut, Jeremy Lin exploded for a series of games that is remembered as “Linsanity”. Nobody expected him to do much after riding the pine so long for both the Warriors and the Knicks, but when the opportunity arose, he stepped up and delivered. Now he’s ranked amongst the top 100 players in the league according to ESPN. With that sudden stardom came the money, and with the money came expectations though.

9. Expectations are a bitch.

When you’re Jeremy Lin and nobody expected anything of you, if you floundered, it was expected so it’s not such a big deal. But if you’re Greg Oden, Kwame Brown, or Michael Olowokandi, I’m not sure how you live down the fact that you were a former number one pick and became a scrub in the NBA. Being picked number one sounds like a blessing, but the expectations are sky high and you gotta deliver. And when you don’t then your name becomes synonymous with BUST.

10. Know when it’s time to let go.

It wasn’t painful watching Jordan play for the lowly Wizards, but it wasn’t pleasant either. If his last moments in the NBA were that sequence where he scored, stripped the ball from Malone, and then hit that memorable shot over Bryan Russell in the 98’ Finals, his legacy would have been capped off by a storybook ending. But instead, the story dragged on a little too long, out of the playoffs, and into the realm of those who hung on too long.

11. Don’t bring guns into the locker room. (Gilbert Arenas)

Or anywhere for that matter.

12. Think carefully about your DECISIONS

The Decision in hindsight wasn’t a bad decision at all if we’re talking about rings. Lebron James ended up winning 2 titles and went to the Finals 4 times in his 4 years there. I would say that he got what he was looking for by going to Miami. However, the way the decision played out was a nightmare. He had a show, hung his hometown adoring fans out to dry, and then fled for the sunny beaches of Miami. But he’s back and we’ll see if he makes good on the promise he made many years ago that he would bring a championship to Cleveland.

13. Gems can be found overseas.

Manu, Dirk, Yao, and Tony Parker were just some of the gems found overseas. They were hard to gauge and difficult to evaluate initially, but when given a shot, gems will shine anywhere.

It’s the same with traveling and going abroad. Just give it a shot. See where these unknown places take you. You never know what you might find.

14. It’s not the size of the dog in a fight, it’s the size of the fight in a dog.

Iverson is probably the best example of this, but Isiah Thomas and Muggsy Bogues were great floor generals who stood their ground and never let their size determine their worth on and probably off the court.

15. You can be crazy and still succeed.

Metta World Peace and Dennis Rodman might have had a few screws loose and are probably not your best role models, but they found ways to transcend their eccentricities by wreaking havoc on the basketball court, mostly on the defensive end. Rodman even played his way into the hall of fame despite having an extremely limited offensive game. However…

16. Think before you ACT.

Successful though he was on the court, Metta World Peace (back when he was still Ron Artest) still started the Malice at the Palace in 2004, which he will always be infamous for. Life gives you second chances though and he sort of patched up his reputation over the years.

17. Fall down 7, Get up 8.

Shaun Livingston, Grant Hill, and Derrick Rose have all suffered significant injuries in their careers and have come back to make an impact in the NBA.

“Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
-Alfred from Batman Begins

18. Don’t be racist.

…or else get banned like Donald Sterling and lose your team.

19. Being the first to do something will make you influential even if your game is just alright.

For some reason, when I think about Kobe, I have to think about his slam dunk contest win and his between the legs dunk. The first player to do that dunk was Isiah Rider, who called it the “East Bay Funk”. He wasn’t that memorable of a player but he’ll always have “East Bay Funk”.

20. Wear a condom.

…if you don’t want to pay child support to about ten women like Shawn Kemp.

21. Don’t get caught Shaq’tin a Fool.

22. Don’t forget the past.

The game wouldn’t be where it is today without Russell, Chamberlain, Baylor, West, Oscar Robertson, Kareem, Julius Erving, Bird, Magic, and a bunch of other legends who paved the way for the game we have today. I guess Kobe talked about generations best when he tweeted:

“Domino effect. I stole some of his,” Bryant wrote. “This generation stole some of mine. Bryant then added the hashtag, #thecycle.

23. Look forward to the future.

The Cavs look like they’ll be fun to watch, Julius Randle looks like he can make an impact for the Lakers, and the league seems to be thriving. What’s not to be happy about if you’re an NBA fan?

24. Nothing lasts forever.

I remember when Kobe first signed with the Lakers, and it wasn’t even legal for him to sign the contract because he was only 17. I was in third grade then, and his Crazy 8 Adidas shoes were all the hype. He did the dunk contest, won that, won three championships with Shaq, a couple with Pau, made a bunch of all star appearances, won a gold medal in Beijing, won an MVP, scored 81 points, and the list goes on and on. These past 18 years have sure passed by quickly. One day, apparently not too soon from now since he’s in the twilight of his career, his playing days will fade away permanently. And I’ll just be glad that we got to witness his playing days in the NBA and all the other players he dueled all these years that seemed to have flown by way too fast. Nothing lasts forever, so let’s cherish his last few years as much as we can.

To an awesome and exciting NBA season to come! Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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