There are lots of really good players who have played in professional basketball, but very few are so good, so transcendent, that they become legendary. Those players, like Michael Jordan or Larry Bird, all share qualities that only a few players have. Those qualities aren’t limited to the world of sports; in fact, these same qualities have been shown in research to be shared among many of the worlds most accomplished people in any field, from Bill Gates to Martha Stewart. Reading this should help provide a blueprint, in any walk of life, to understanding why some players go from ‘great’ to ‘legendary’ and how this applies to anyone regardless of their path in life. Not everyone has the abilities to become a legendary performer in their field, but those that do share all of these.
1. They are always thinking several moves ahead.
On the basketball court, they aren’t just focused on the current play, they are also thinking about the next play and the next period. In life, great ‘stars’ in any business do the same. They are always thinking about what they are going to do ‘next’.
2. They work hardest when the lights are off
Before the crowds would file in to watch the huge NBA match ups of the day, Michael Jordan would be in the gym, alone, shooting free throws, sometimes with his eyes closed. It’s not enough to be good some of the time; Legendary performers put in massive amounts of work that the world will never see.
3. They are focused on the important things
Legendary performers have a laser focus on specific things and see them through to completion. This is not to say that they ignore everything else in their life. But humans often spend cumulative years of their life on things that they feel are important but are just wasted time. Stars know how to strip away the fluff and pay attention to the thing that will get them closer to what they want.
4. They understand the game flow and keep a balance
Even though sports are emotionally charged and physical, legendary players are known for their composure under the most extreme competition. Even in a game 7 of a playoff game, seconds to go, playing on the road, with thousands of hostile fans screaming at them, they can look around at their teammates and tell a joke. They don’t get too high or too low during the game, regardless of the score.
5. They see the game mentally as well as physically
A legendary player understands that for every offensive attack, there is a defensive adjustment, and vice versa. It’s about more than just not going for ball fakes; it’s about getting into the other players head, and not just with trash talk. Legendary players understand that you can shoot an outside shot, which will make the defender play them closer, thus allowing for the drive by. They understand that using the same move every time down the floor will not work; they want the defense to be backpeddling, to be second guessing themselves.
6. They see themselves as their biggest competition
A lot of players over time have complained about not getting enough press or about rankings which have them lower on a list than other players. But legendary players – regardless of whether they were ‘nice guys’ or complete jerks – only really cared about their own standard of performance. They were their own biggest fan while also being their own harshest critic.
7. They never have to be reminded to pracice
Many players work hard. However, any professional trainer can rattle off dozens of players who routinely saunter into practice or don’t really put in much work other than what has been requested. But legendary playersnever need a schedule to be set out for them. They are self motivated and do not need anyone to babysit their efforts.
8. They understand the process of failure
No one is born with perfect ability, no matter how smart or athletically gifted. Albert Einstein wasn’t born knowing the theory of relativity; Michelangelo wasn’t born with the ability to paint the Sistine Chapel. To develop a skill or specialized knowledge comes with practice and time, and that means the first time – or maybe the first 1,000 times – are works in progress. This goes along with #3, where once a person has identified the important things to work on/focus on/accomplish, they also understand they will fail a lot before they achieve it and that is just part of the process. There will be mistakes, there will be adversity, there will be frustration, but at no point in history has anyone achieved greatness without those things along the way.