I love June. It’s always a time of significant beginnings, or endings.
- The start of summer.
- The end of school.
- The “kickoff” to wedding season.
- The end of professional hockey ... with the hoisting of the Stanley Cup.
- The feeling that the “boys of summer” and major league baseball are finally in full swing.
- The end of professional basketball ... with the clinching of a world championship.
And when I think of champions, there’s always one guy who immediately pops into my mind, Bill Russell.
So let’s have an encore performance, with ... a champion’s vision.
In the spring of 2000, I consulted with Bill Russell, one of the most celebrated athletes in the history of sports. His feats of victory read more like a “believe it or not” tale rather than a resume of remarkable results.
His accomplishments include:
• 11 NBA (National Basketball Association) World Championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics
• NBA Hall of Famer
• Only athlete to ever win two NBA Championships as a player/coach
• Voted one of the top 50 NBA players of all time
• Two NCAA Championships with the University of San Francisco
• Olympic gold medal winner
• Recognized by HBO as the greatest winner of the 20th century
One of the most interesting stories Russell told me, was about his role as a rebounder.
Russell did more than merely elevate his angular 6’10” body to grab the ball or “wipe the glass” following an opponent’s errant shot.
Instead, he turned rebounding into a science. Russell studied other players. He learned their tendencies; their shot patterns; their habits, especially the bad ones. This analysis gave him an almost unfair competitive advantage.
When an opponent launched a shot, other players followed the ball.
Not Russell. Instead, he fought for position in more valuable territory. He was headed to where the ball was going, after it hit the backboard or rim on a missed shot.
This strategy, dogged determination and exhaustive preparation helped Russell become the most prolific rebounder of his time. (He averaged 22.5 per game and led the league in rebounding four times.)
But Russell knew once he had the ball, he had to get rid of it. Fast!
His next goal was to quickly fling the ball downcourt via an outlet pass to a streaking teammate. With speed and precision, Russell would grab a rebound and hurl a pass up the hardwood.
He wasn’t throwing to a teammate, as much as he was throwing to a spot. A spot a teammate would suddenly fill, so he could dribble to the bucket or pass to another teammate. The result, two more fast break Celtic points.
Throughout a game, Russell would toss a lot of so called “no look or blind passes.” He told me the “blind” pass is a misnomer. Because, “Tossing the ball to a player you can’t see, is dumb!” And Russell ain’t dumb.
When I asked how he perfected the “outlet” pass, he rose before me, extended his long arms in front of his body, spread the fingers on his enormous hands and said, “I worked on and improved my peripheral vision. Every day, I’d slowly extend each hand. A little to the left. A little to the right.”
Eventually, his hands, though extended at his sides like a bird’s awesome wingspan, were still in his line of sight. Just like the court. Just like a streaking open teammate who would take Russell’s bullet pass in full stride and head for the hoop.
Russell said, “Clear peripheral vision gives you focus. You have to rid yourself of peripheral opponents.”
- keep your eyes open for opportunity
- results require teamwork and time
- prepare for victory
- work smart, every day
- develop your strengths
- see what others don’t see, then take action
Jeff Blackman is a speaker, author, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer who lives part-time on Marco Island. His clients call him a “business-growth specialist.” Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to jeffblackman.com to subscribe to his free e-letter.