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Why The NBA’s Best Are Relentless
Posted By Lang Greene On April 11, 2013 @ 2:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
HOOPSWORLD recently spoke with legendary trainer Tim Grover on what drives the best in their profession to become so relentless in their pursuit of greatness. Grover has trained some of the NBA’s most elite players including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.
In the book, Grover places athletes into three categories – Cleaners, Closers and Coolers.
According to Grover, the rarefied air the Jordan’s, Bryant’s and Wade’s occupy makes them Cleaners. A Cleaner is “the most intense and driven competitor imaginable.” A guy who gets it done by any means possible and doesn’t care whose feelings are hurt in the process of achieving their success. Cleaners, simply put, thrive off of pressure and own the moment.
Grover spoke in-depth on the mentality of Russell Westbrook, Bryant and Wade and why he feels they’re among today’s Cleaners and why he believes LeBron James hasn’t reached this level yet. He also lets it be known why he has the utmost respect for Juwan Howard as the veteran’s career winds down.
Negative Feedback Fuels Russell Westbrook’s Drive
Grover doesn’t train Russell Westbrook personally, but he believes the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard is a Cleaner at the highest level. Most people feel Westbrook should tone his game down a bit and become more of a sidekick in order to allow Kevin Durant to take a larger role, but Grover doesn’t agree with this philosophy. He feels Westbrook’s refusal to bow down to criticism and external pressures show the true confidence he has in his game.
“A couple things that stand out to me with Russell is that he knows exactly who he is,” Grover told HOOPSWORLD. “He has a dark side that refuses to be taught to be good. The media and everybody says, ‘This is what you need to do,’ and Russell says, ‘No, this is what I do and I’m going to continue to do it.’
“You know he’s not intimidated by pressure. He thrives on it. The one thing which stands out about Russ more than anything else is on the basketball court a lot of players are trying to be liked, but he prefers to be feared. He’d rather be feared than liked.”
Westbrook was selected with the fourth overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft, a class in which former league MVP Derrick Rose was chosen by Chicago with the top pick. Grover believes Westbrook is personally driven to become the best player from his draft class.
“I think Oklahoma City can go a long way with Russell and Kevin [Durant],” Grover said. “I think what’s unique about that team is those two guys are interchangeable. But I still think from a mental standpoint, Russ has that extra chip on his shoulder.
“Remember, he came into the league at the same time Derrick Rose did. They came in the same draft, but Derrick got all the publicity. People were saying Derrick was the fastest guy and the most athletic. So you can see that is a competitive fuel that Russ has turned into energy as we talk about in Relentless.”
The Mentality of Kobe Bryant
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant could be on the verge of leading, some would argue singlehandedly, the team to the playoffs when most thought the club was dead in the water.
Grover says Kobe’s drive to be great started in his formative years and didn’t end on draft night back in 1996 when a lot of his peers stopped working as hard.
“A lot of people when they shake NBA commissioner David Stern’s hand it doesn’t signal the beginning of their career but the ending of their career because now they exhale,” Grover said. “Now they’re a professional and where they always wanted to be in life. Do you want to know what Kobe Bryant did after he shook David Stern’s hand? He went to the gym to work out.”
Dwyane Wade’s Career Transition In Miami
Grover maintains Wade was the driving force behind the Miami HEAT’s championship run in 2012. The trainer says the adversity Wade has faced throughout his journey as a player has been beneficial in LeBron James’ ascension to the top of the league.
“Dwyane has gone through so much adversity from high school to college and also at the pro level; from winning a championship to having a 15-win season and trying to fight back again,” Grover said. “That does something to you from a mental standpoint, knowing you may not be able to physically be able to do what [you] used to do, but from a mental standpoint [you] still have the ability to see things, put different players in their place but still perform physically at a higher level.”
When Will LeBron James Become A Cleaner
LeBron James is the best player in the league and closing in on his fourth league MVP award. However, Grover still classifies James as a Closer, not a Cleaner. To be clear, Grover believes LeBron is at the top of his profession, but thinks the forward has one more step to go from a mental standpoint to become a Cleaner.
“It’s about the longevity and the way you think,” Grover says on becoming a Cleaner. “It’s not about LeBron’s physical. Everyone knows from a physical standpoint and skills standpoint he’s going to win his fourth MVP award and deservedly so. But it’s your make up from the neck up. If [the HEAT] win a championship again this year and he leads the team the way he did last year and in the past, he will make the jump from a Closer to a Cleaner and that puts the added pressure on you stay focused.”
The Respect For Juwan Howard Commands Throughout The League
Current Miami HEAT forward Juwan Howard’s contribution to the game over the years is impressive. He was part of the Fab Five at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s, once even signed a $100 million contract and last season won an NBA title with Miami.
It is no secret Howard is a widely respected veteran throughout the league.
Grover says Howard’s ability to adapt to each role in his career even as his physical skills erode, without ego, should be applauded. Grover also believes Howard has earned one of the strongest voices within the HEAT’s locker room and wasn’t surprised the team brought him back to gear up for their title defense.
“No one wants to hear that their career is coming to an end or that they have to accept a different role,” Grover said. “But I’ll tell you the individual that I’ve had who from a physical standpoint where the skills and athleticism were average but from a mental standpoint who is a total Cleaner and that’s Juwan Howard.
“Every single team he’s gone to, at every single stage of his career he has made the adjustment. He went from the $100 million man to a role player to sitting on the end of the bench. But when his name has been called, he’s been ready. The HEAT brought him back to make sure the locker room is in place and make sure all the guys are ready to go. If there are any issues, he’s the spokesperson. He’s there for his mental toughness and his understanding of how to handle different situations and personalities.”
Grover’s Personal Training Strategy
Grover believes truly elite players are separated from their peers because of the work they put into their games throughout their careers. The sheer amount of work put into their craft makes the elite players’ movements automatic and more of a second nature in comparison to their peers, who have to think their way through certain aspects of the game. This in turn puts them at the mercy of the elites during critical situations and provides the separation on the court.
“Everything we do from a training standpoint is to not only prepare our guys physically but also to make sure they’re prepared mentally,” Grover said. “In my book Relentless, we make a point saying you have to be so ready at what you can do that you don’t have to think about it. If you have to think about it, then it becomes an extra process or step that’s going to slow you down.”
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