Bill Bradley – How He Went From Slow and Gawky to the New York Knicks

Bill Bradley - How He Went From Slow and Gawky to the New York Knicks

Bill Bradley (b. 1943) fell in love with the sport of basketball somewhere around the age of ten.  He had one advantage over his peers—he was tall for his age.  But beyond that, he had no real natural gift for the game.  He was slow and gawky, and could not jump very high.  None of the aspects of the game came easily to him.  He would have to compensate for all of his inadequacies through sheer practice.  And so he proceeded to devise one of the most rigorous and efficient training routines in the history of sports.

Managing to get his hands on the keys to the high school gym, he created for himself a schedule—three and a half hours of practice after school and on Sundays, eight hours every Saturday, and three hours a day during the summer.  Over the years, he would keep rigidly to this schedule.  In the gym, he would put ten-pound weights in his shoes to strengthen his legs and give him more spring to his jump.  His greatest weaknesses, he decided, were his dribbling and his overall slowness.  He would have to work on these and also transform himself into a superior passer to make up for his lack of speed.

For this purpose, he devised various exercises.  He wore eyeglass frames with pieces of cardboard taped to the bottom, so he could not see the basketball while he practiced dribbling.  This would train him to always look around him rather than at the ball—a key skill in passing.  He set up chairs on the court to act as opponents.  He would dribble around them, back and forth, for hours, until he could glide past them, quickly changing direction.  He spent hours at both of these exercises, well past any feelings of boredom or pain.

Walking down the main street of his hometown in Missouri, he would keep his eyes focused straight ahead and try to notice the goods in the store windows, on either side, without turning his head.  He worked on this endlessly, developing his peripheral vision so he could see more of the court.  In his room at home, he practiced pivot moves and fakes well into the night—such skills that would also help him compensate for his lack of speed.

Bradley put all of his creative energy into coming up with novel and effective ways of practicing.  One time his family traveled to Europe via transatlantic ship.  Finally, they thought, he would give his training regimen a break—there was really no place to practice on board.  But below deck and running the length of the ship were two corridors, 900 feet long and quite narrow—just enough room for two passengers.  This was the perfect location to practice dribbling at top speed while maintaining perfect ball control.  To make it even harder, he decided to wear special eyeglasses that narrowed his vision.  For hours every day he dribbled up one side and down the other, until the voyage was done.

Working this way over the years, Bradley slowly transformed himself into one of the biggest stars in basketball—first as an All-American at Princeton University and then as a professional with the New York Knicks.  Fans were in awe of his ability to make the most astounding passes, as if he had eyes on the back and sides of his head—not to mention his dribbling prowess, his incredible arsenal of fakes and pivots, and his complete gracefulness on the court.  Little did they know that such apparent ease was the result of so many hours of intense practice over so many years.

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Food for thought:  How might you apply the same creative energy that Bill Bradley committed to Basketball practice to the great endeavors of your life?  Are you obsessed with improving or just doing what everybody else is doing?

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If you enjoyed this motivational short story about Bill Bradley, you can find more quotes, resources, and info from the book below:

Book Overview: Each one of us has within us the potential to be a Master. Learn the secrets of the field you have chosen, submit to a rigorous apprenticeship, absorb the hidden knowledge possessed by those with years of experience, surge past competitors to surpass them in brilliance, and explode established patterns from within.  Study the behaviors of Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Leonardo da Vinci and the nine contemporary Masters interviewed for this book.  The bestseller author of The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War, Robert Greene has spent a lifetime studying the laws of power. Now, he shares the secret path to greatness. With this seminal text as a guide, readers will learn how to unlock the passion within and become masters.

Quotes from Book! Buy from Amazon!

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Read Next:   The Importance of Increasing Repetitions and How That Leads to Mastery.

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