Monday, March 31, 2008

NBA Mondays: The Killer Instinct

First, a preamble before I ramble. I don't like talking about myself on here, because I've noticed a familiar pattern befalls male sports bloggers who talk about their lives. At first, people respond in a favorable manner; that's partly because the sports blogger tells his most interesting stories first. Then, after some period of time, readers start competing with the writer, or they make fun of their quirks (i.e. Will's t-shirts, Matt's skin tone, BDD's weight, etc.). That's ok to a certain extent, but then readers start judging all of the writer's output by his personal anecdotes ("only a man who owns a cat would say that", or some other nonsense). Also, it's hard for a writer to stop writing about themselves once they start, and writers tend to be so oblivious to their personal biases. Besides, do you really want to know that I've watched more than one episode of the Miley and Mandy Show in my life, or that Tavis Smiley may be my favorite late night talk-show host? See? Really, you don't want to know more. Here's all you need to know about me; I am a former high school athlete, I tend to favor the underdog and/or minority because I often perceive myself as one, I'm a Christian, and I'm a fan of most Ohio teams. That outlines my main biases well enough so that you can be properly aware of them. However, I'll talk about myself briefly for this post.

Your NBA player random photos are of Zydrunas Ilguskas this time.
cAVS game 022

A few weeks ago, I was at the gym playing a game of pickup basketball. I was having an unusually good day, having hit 3 of 3 from behind the arc and having nutmeg'ed (sorry, soccer term) two of the other team's players. (The secret is to charge directly at the defender, then push the ball through their legs at the last possible moment and run past them to get the ball). I owed my success to our very good post player, who was drawing double-teams that allowed me to get open. (I also have a theory that my recent weight gain is acting as ballast, ha, allowing me to get better arc on my 3-balls). At the end of the game, I got the ball one last time behind the arc. However, as I prepared to shoot, a little voice said something like "3 of 3 is good enough for today" and I missed the shot! They rebounded my miss, went down and scored, and beat us by 11-9.

Me and Zydrunas

That's what the killer instinct is about to me; the ability to view things in an illogical, unbalanced manner on the court. Whether you are 7 of 8 or 1 of 8, you believe that you will make the next shot, and that you deserve the last call. It's also a state of unnatural focus. I lacked the killer instinct, and thus I was unable to maintain my basketball zone where I could not miss, and started to doubt.

Zydrunas and The Girls

Now, an interesting question when surveying the NBA teams is, which guys have the killer instinct? The fact is, you don't want your role players to have a true killer instinct, else they'll be taking the shot that your star should be taking. On the other hand, to be a role player in the NBA, you must have been a star somewhere. So you probably do have somewhat of a killer instinct.

Another interesting question is how one feels about teammates with killer instincts. There's a mercilessness and lack of grace that is strongly identified with the killer instinct. Look at how Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant would at times mercilessly heckle inferior players, to the point of ruining some talented teammates. Is that bad attitude worth the superior performance? I have to say, from the male athletes I have known, the better the player was, the bigger jerk the player was. Do you put up with the abuse in practice, or challenge them?

Zydrunas Ilgauskas

A final question is, do you really want a chaplain in basketball? I once sat down and tried to investigate for each sport whether you would want religious players or not. (This is highly sacriligious and nonsensical, FYI). I decided that baseball should defintely have chaplains; baseball requires a lot of patience and perseverance, which are definitely religious traits. Even football seems to benefit from religion; the top-down nature of religion meshes well with the top-down nature of football, where many sacrifice without crowds knowing their names. I don't know if I'd want my defenders to be religious, but on the other hand a safety who knows the power of forgiveness is less likely to fret over being burned on a play and thus lose his confidence. But what about basketball? The game is so creative and quick that I don't see a natural connection to religious traits. Could a major star be religious and still keep that killer instinct? After all, much of the killer instinct relies on a certain level of arrogance and confidence that seems mutually exclusive with religion.

Bob and Zydrunas Ilgauskas

No comments:

Post a Comment