The 1st Secret of Basketball


“The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.”– Bill Russell

THBA on Winning Championships: The 1st Secret of Basketball

(three part series- 10 min read)


In the summer of 1994, I was 15, weighed 120 pounds, and figured out the secret to winning basketball championships after almost throwing fists at my best friend (and teammate’s) face. After that day, these basketball secrets spread into who I was during my high school, college, and professional teams. That day made me sit down and think about what winning meant to me. I may have forgotten a few (there was my 6th grade recreational championship, but I left that one out), but I counted over 12 high school, college, and professional championship teams that I’ve been a part of. Yet, these basketball secrets grow from within and over time, like a slow rising tide start to become part of who you are, part of the team’s identity, and the feeling is undeniable.

Isiah Thomas referred to one of these basketball secrets in a meeting he had with Bill Simmons in the Book of Basketball. He said, referring to why his Piston’s teams won championships: “…Cause everybody does something good. That’s what makes us good… we created an environment that won’t accept losing.” See, in my opinion, winning in basketball isn’t only about basketball. It’s about you and your teammates. It’s about chemistry. It’s the family atmosphere that despises laziness and bad work ethic and unauthentic players. It’s why teams and coaches like Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs have won so many titles. They get basketball players that have high character, know their role, and check their egos out at the door.

Championship teams can’t be built without players that understand human nature and are self-aware of their egos.

But where do you start in building championship caliber teams and programs?

Start with yourself.

Start with caring.

Start with being authentic in every encounter you have with anyone on your team from this point on.

If you start with yourself and you care, you are off to a great start.

Bill Russell used to throw up before big games. Caring is why players throw up,  it’s why certain players can’t watch certain losses after their season is over and why championship teams always have a bond and feeling that remains intact for decades. It’s why I still haven’t watched my Elite Eight game loss against Indiana (this is actually my Sweet Sixteen win, see, I won’t even let you see it!) or my loss in the Michigan Final Four in high school to Marshall. It’s why I would shut my eyes for 30 minutes before every game and try to visualize giving everything I had to win the game and execute our game-plan and ask for guidance from the Universe (God, higher power, whatever you label it) instead of vomiting into the toilet.

It all starts with you caring.

And when you care, you are starting on a good foundation, but it takes more than just caring to create championships. So let’s talk about that, because we all want to win. I’m going to break down my three basketball secrets so you can do your part to help bring a championship to your team or program.



Pat Riley talks about “The Disease of More” and it refers to process NBA teams and players go through when they win titles and the change in psychology that happens after success comes to you. I had to learn the hard way after winning the championship title in one of the biggest Gus Mackers in the world (Belding, Michigan) as a 14-year old teenager.  We came back the next year and “The Disease of More” had started to seep into me. And that’s just it, it’s human nature to expect more after winning.

More shots. More newspaper clippings. More popularity. More ego. More attention from your classmates and the kids that are labeled “cool” at school. But I learned that summer, (rather quickly) that the secret to winning championships isn’t always about basketball talent or athleticism, it is about understanding human nature and then being self-aware of your ego WANTING MORE.

So let’s rewind to our Gus Macker title defense when I learned this lesson. My teammate Johnny was a better scorer than me. He could shoot from anywhere. He was relentless in his accuracy and creativity around the hoop. But I wanted to squabble over who was better, who could score more, who could do this or that better. I wanted to prove it to him, to our teammates, to anyone that asked, and to myself. Basically, my ego wanted to be known. It wanted to be stroked. It wanted to be told it was better.

It wanted more.

Right before the game started, as we argued on the court about who was better, who could score more, right before I threw a haymaker, his mother stopped us, yelling, “What are you two doing? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

I put my head down and walked off the court. Fifteen minutes later, still humiliated, we tried to pull it together and play our game.

We got smashed.

Our title defense looked like Jordan’s Bulls whipping on the Charlotte Hornets without Larry Johnson or Alonzo Mourning and worse, this was a classic case of Riley’s “The Disease of More.”

It was the disease of me and the disease of more.

"Detroit Country Day's Shane Battier against Petosky in a March 13, 1997 game."

There I am(#24) chasing Mr. Basketball, Detroit Country Day’s Shane Battier against my team Petoskey in our Final Four loss on March 13, 1997 game.

Yet, losing can shine the light on growth and self-awareness. And as I was watching ego self destruct team chemistry, I quickly realized that winning took precedence over everything.

On the ride home, watching the highways unwind out my window, I thought about Johnny’s strengths, about mine, and the rest of the team’s. Johnny was higher up on the food scoring pyramid. No if’s, ands, or buts about it. He was just a better scorer than me. Little did I know, he would be one of three players to go onto score over 2,000 points in high school and college.

Maybe Shane Battier did that as well?

Who knows (lucky for me, four years after our Gus Macker loss, I got to guard Mr. Basketball Battier in the Michigan Final Four of my junior year, eh hem, we held him to single digits, but he had the flu, so much to my chagrin, we can’t take full credit for that defensive effort).

My teammate Johnny and I went onto to fully realize our full potential (as well as our team’s potential). We won three league championships, three district championships, three regional championships, and had two final four appearances. Now, we didn’t win the ultimate goal of a state championship, but we were one of the only Northern Michigan teams to ever have that much success.

This happened again in my college career.

And again in my pro career.

And every year, after winning championships, I would have to reflect and look for that ego finding a way in. And every time I thought about wanting more, I started to reflect and utilize my self-awareness. Was I rationalizing for my ego? Was I being greedy? Was I doing enough to make my team better? Myself better?

With letting go of my own ego, of wanting more for myself at the expense of the team, I gave up “The Disease of Me” and got more winning and team success in return. And the funny thing about winning is that you get more individual accolades this way. Ironic isn’t it? That when you actually focus on the team success, you actually get more individual success.

And this can only happen if your team has a certain chemistry, trust, and bond with your team. This takes authenticity. From you. From others. From accepting differences, but never accepting losing or poor effort.

If someone got out of line, a leader on the team spoke up.

If you are wondering how to create team chemistry for your team, start with authenticity and letting go of your ego.

Go first. Be the change you want to see in others.

Rebound for someone.

Play one on one.

Fall 2016: Trevor Huffman Traverse City Basketball Training-Camps-Workouts

If you are the coach, bring in your leaders. Make them set the tone and make it expected that losing is unacceptable and that anything less than 100% is unacceptable. Make that your culture. Ensure team building and opportunities for your team to grow outside the court. Take them on a trip. Show them a new city against a new team. Take them to Europe in the summer.

Are you the leader of the team?

Demand them to make the extra pass and demand the same in return.

Only accept 100% effort from yourself in every drill and workout, and then demand the same from your teammates.

Talk to them.

Ask them to pick it up.

And in the end,  when you are authentic, you are aware of your ego, and you don’t allow human nature to creep in after your have success, you can focus on what really matters.

Winning. And being part of a team that cares so much about one another, words are hard to describe the bond that develops.

Life After Pro Sports: Athletes on Commitments versus Goals

My phone was vibrating as the electricity shocked me. I dropped the neon green Ryobi power drill on the floor with a loud thud. I hadn’t mastered this yet, I thought. Add another one to the list.

0e954424b676bbf2d2e1a18d40d85755Thankfully, my friend Charlie was calling, interrupting me from the flow of 110 volts of electricity flowing through my body. 

“Charlie!” I answered, shaking my free hand.

“Hey Huff, are you gonna be late to our workout today or what?”

“Yeah, so what if I am?” I retorted sarcastically. “What do you want? I’m trying to work here!”

“No seriously, you gonna be late or not?”

(I am blushing as I write this).

I paused before answering. I had a list of excuses and reasons for being late already rolling through my head… I  have to drive 40 minutes to get to the gym… and I have to make sure I’m done getting all the new wall outlet covers on… and lastly, now that I’m not a pro basketball player, who cares if I work out.

Well, besides Charlie that is.

But my excuses weighed on my conscious. I knew that traitorous voice as a pro basketball player. It’s that internal voice spouting off every reason to procrastinate and giving you every excuse to not stay committed. Every athlete hears what the War of Art  author Stephen Pressfield calls RESISTANCE. This foot-dragging voice fears becoming the highest version of itself. It manipulates you. It cheats you. It dupes you into believing it is actually you making the decision to delay commitment, discipline, and your goals from happening.

“Well, Charlie, that’s a good question– a fair question. My being tardy isn’t something I have put a lot of thought into lately. Plus, since I give you all my workout knowledge for free and that’s priceless… I can be a little late right?” I joked.

“Yeah, about that,” he chuckled. “Can you be on time today? I have a family, a schedule to stick too. Can you make a commitment to be there and ready to go at 5:00 p.m?”

Fall 2016: Trevor Huffman Traverse City Basketball Training-Camps-Workouts

In the Life and Minds of Pro Athletes

I heard it in his voice this time. He meant business. Charlie was a close friend of mine, a financial advisor that had just become a father for the first time, and I knew driving 40 minutes to work out with him wasn’t a valid excuse for my tardiness. 

Instantly, his question got me thinking about goals versus commitments and how it related to my life before and after basketball.  I knew too many people that couldn’t transfer commitment to their lives and got stuck in their own self-made hamster wheels.

I didn’t want RESISTANCE to win. I didn’t want to look back a year from now and regret not committing to something that I knew was good for me. I didn’t want the internal traitor to spread into other areas of my life.

Another dream gone.

Another goal missed.

“I know, you are right Charlie. I was never late to practices or my own commitments with basketball, why am I late to our workouts now?”

I paused and thought about my current workout goals.

I had none. At least no concrete ones that I had written down on paper.

“Well, it is a long drive,” I said. “And I am doing things for work that sometimes push me back. Errands. Workers. Getting electrocuted, you know, the perfect day–“

“So what! Can’t you just drop it? Can’t you just make a commitment to the workouts and not be late?”

I waited before I answered. I knew this conversation wasn’t like most of our conversations.

“Yes.” I said, pausing. “I can commit to that.”

As I said it, I knew I was in trouble. Not because I couldn’t do it, but because I knew the difference between committing to something and just saying, “my goal is…”

Goals aren’t enough.


Committing to something is serious to me. Plus, I was busy with my new life after basketball. Trying to become a businessman. Trying to sail the Caribbean. Learning to write. Building an inspirational website. Taking Spanish classes. Training other friends. Teaching and running my basketball academies.

I thought back to my youth. I had written down Titanic-sized goals, but my commitments were even bigger. My commitments to basketball and training were probably viewed as insane to people on the outside looking in, but not sticking to my commitment to touch a basketball twice a day felt like I was deserting my team when they needed me most.

And who cared really cared if I didn’t touch a basketball twice day, every day?

No one but me. And I cared more than anything.

Touching that basketball was my daily commitment to help me reach my goals of being a freshman on varsity, to becoming First-Team All-State, to playing Division One basketball in college, and eventually becoming an NBA or European professional player.

I knew beating the RESISTANCE inside me took:


Rain or shine. Hurt or healthy. Sad or mad. Traveling or at home, I touched that ball.

But now what? What happens after careers end or new transitions begin? How do you wield the power of personal commitment in your daily life?

For example, you could say, “I want to be a millionaire.”

Well then, okay, what are the daily commitments you’ll make every day to ensure that happens?

You could say, “I want to have a forty-inch vertical.”

What are the daily commitments to weight lifting, jumping, and plyometric training you will do every day?

You could say, “I have the goal to be a straight-A student.”

Yeah, I know this one. You get home and your homework isn’t done and you procrastinate. You play video games. You call your friends. Commitments don’t procrastinate. Commitments don’t wait. Commitments don’t whine.

They just get it done.


Committing to an ambitious goal calls for you to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I got you today commitment.”

That’s how you build trust with yourself.

That’s how you become All-State.

That’s how you play college basketball.

That’s how you become a straight-A student or a millionaire, by caring enough to stick to the small details of doing the work.

So maybe I need to replicate what I did as a seventh grader when I wrote my goals and commitments on notecards and stuck it on my ceiling, my bathroom mirror and my school folders.

These notecards read:

“Play professional basketball.”

“Touch a basketball twice a day, every day.”

I knew if I could commit to just touching a ball twice a day, I would start shooting, dribbling, and playing. I knew I would start sweating and want to improve once I acted upon just touching a ball.

The commitments adapted as I got older– to wake up and practice before school started… to lift weights like a mad man… to play 1 on 1 with older kids or do dribble drills at lunch time… or to challenge my own friends to play me in 2 on 1.

I learned and replicated how Pistol Pete Maravich carried and dribbled his basketball with him everywhere. But I stayed true to my commitment to not only touching a basketball twice a day but to doing more than I thought I was capable of.

Yeah, unfortunately, people stared at me when I wore Strength Shoes to school.

“You are crazy, kid,” they’d say.


But guess what– I was committed too.


365 days straight.

Like Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

There is no trying to do a commitment. There is only doing or not doing. In a book Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win, two Stanford professors (Ryan Babineaux, John Krumboltz) taught a class on committing to doing, failing, and doing it again. They said,  “Happy and successful people tend to spend less time planning and more time acting. They get out into the world, try new things, and make mistakes, and in doing so, they benefit from unexpected experiences and opportunities.”

There is a difference between setting a goal and actually committing to it day after day. You will be acting on commitments and possibly making mistakes, but moving forward, growing, and experiencing the world rather than thinking about it.

As I thought about my goals (and commitment blunders) as a 37-year old man, I heard something on the other end of the line. Charlie was still waiting.

“Oh, hey man, you there? Sorry. I was thinking about something.”

“Yeah, no crap,” he laughed. “So, see you at five?”

Before answering, I reflected on my life. My happiest and most joyful moments come when I’m around people I enjoy. When I’m part of a team. When I’m helping others succeed at something. When I’m sweating and pushing myself, trying to be the best version of myself. 

So why wouldn’t I commit to something that brings me joy and happiness? If commitments are what help me reach my goals and my goals are in line with my values and vision of what and who I want to become, why would I not commit?

If commitments are the life force of professional point guards, millionaires, maestros or savants and success stories, if commitments to never skip your workouts, to save and invest 10% of every payday, to be on time for practice, for workouts, for meetings, for appointments, for work, for anything and everything in life that gives you meaning…

Why let RESISTANCE win by not acting upon new commitments?

An epiphany hit me: if I can’t commit to being on time for something that gives me meaning, what does that say about me?

“Charlie,” I said.


“I’ll be ready to go at five– on the dot.”

Stay inspired. — Trevor Huffman

PS. One of my favorite quotes that will inspire us onwards to hunting our new dreams. Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Being a Freshman on Varsity – My Basketball Anxiety



Trevor Huffman on Basketball Anxiety


Being a Freshman on Varsity: My Basketball Anxiety

“You aren’t worth a damn.”


“You are going to lose.”


“Do you even belong here?”

I slammed the bathroom door behind me and sat on the toilet. As my monkey mind chattered away (I called it my monkey mind because it is that voice that never stops talking), I realized how excited, anxious, and negative I felt. Really, at any moment, I could pass out. And tonight was a big night for me. It was something I had worked really hard to make happen. Unfortunately, this process came with gut-riddling nausea, cold sweats, and racing thoughts.  

Granted, I was a freshman playing in my first varsity game. It had been a dream of mine since I was in seventh grade. But death was above me pounding their feet into a wooden floor. The fans had a certain rhythm, like a hundred thousand soldiers slamming their swords into their shields at once.  I knew up there, on the court, fanatics were waiting for me to fail, standing vigil over their team with judging eyes.

But that’s what anxiety does to you before battle. It makes you think about every single angle, every single move, every single opponent, every strength and weakness and it loops in your head like a video on repeat. I couldn’t sleep the night before and when I woke up in the morning to eat my Frosted Flakes, my hands were cold, white, and shaky as I spooned the cereal into my mouth. My stomach churned. My mom was talking to me, but I didn’t hear what she was saying.

I was obsessing about the game.

Looking back now, at 37, after 22 years of having a basketball in my hand every day, I’m able to understand things that I wasn’t able to when I was younger. See, it wasn’t all anxiety. It was excitement too. It was this nervous excitement to do something I loved. And it was this battle between allowing nervousness and anxiety to swing back and forth like a pendulum and still move forward through it that mattered.

Some people may call this existential decisiveness– moving through the crossroads of anxiety, fear, and nervous excitement through action and meaning.

Fast forward to that infamous first-game-day in St. Ignace, Michigan. We were playing a team ranked in the top ten in Class C basketball. I had just been called up from JV because our senior guard had a sprained ankle, which meant, I would have to play.

The bus ride from Petoskey to St. Ignace seemed like eternal purgatory. The toilet episode had my older brother (a volatile all-state power forward) wondering where I went. And as I ran onto the court and heard the boos, and jeers, and cheers, I could literally feel the heat and energy of a packed gym, feel the unseen hope of thousands of people during that silent moment before the national anthem.

The music was always my cue to breathe and relax, shut my eyes and know everything would be all right– win or lose, fail or succeed, bomb or ace. It was when the music played that I shut my eyes, prayed and repeated bible quotes like: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”


Yet, even after my eyes opened, I hoped I was strong enough to run onto the court when Coach called my name. But there was so much meaning for me to play in the game that night, in fact, to play basketball every night. Maybe it was moving away from my dad (my mom had custody) and wanting to show him I was worth that long drive to visit us from Flint. Maybe it was wanting my mom to see me succeed and face our fears. Maybe it was my younger brother Damon (of six years) and his white puffy hair, as he idled by, watching me with gargantuan eyes and an admiring smile. Maybe it was my older brother Jeremy, who played power forward on varsity and had always been tough on me, preparing me for this moment.

Maybe it was the notecard I had made as a seventh grader and pinned to my ceiling that reminded me of my goals:

Play varsity basketball as a freshman with Jeremy.

Workout twice a day with basketball.

Win a state championship.

Play professional basketball in Europe.


This morning, at age 37, in my effort to attach meaning to my new life after basketball, I’m reading notes about Eric Maisel’s book Mastering Creative Anxiety. It is a great book in helping understand why we have anxiety and how to deal with it.

I think about myself as a kid, that teenager that felt like he is awaiting the executioner block. 

That is anxiety.

Procrastinating, worrying, obsessing, and fretting over the blank page of my next game was in many ways like what anyone feels when they want to do something creative, something that matters to them,  something aligned with their purpose, authentic expression, and future.

This could be writing a book. Finishing a painting. Getting a workout in. Playing in a game. Going to get a new degree. Going to work. Finishing a speech. Quitting your job. Giving a speech. Coaching. Creating and teaching a curriculum you believe in. 

As Brian Johnson, one of my favorite collector of motivation and inspirational books says:

  1. Ask what matters to you?
  2. Are your thoughts aligned with what matters to you?
  3. Are your behaviors aligned with what matters to you?
  4. How can I make myself proud?

Good luck out there and stay inspired.

— Trevor Huffman

My Best Sports Blog – September 2016: Courage and Beating Lebron James




Beating Lebron- My Best Sports Blog for 2016



When the King, Lebron James rips through and drives left, there is one thing that every basketball player should have: courage.

And so it begins. My professional basketball career was a dream that I worked hard to achieve and playing Lebron James was proof of my courage paying off. Because getting paid to do what you love doesn’t happen overnight.

Not for me, not for Lebron, not for anyone.

So ask this: What does the basketball world need from you? What can you give it? How do you get there? What do you need to really make dreams come true?


Here’s a quote I love from Jeff Goins: “Successful people and organizations don’t succeed in spite of failure. They succeed because of it. … The world can be cruel. It’s nobody’s responsibility to make your dream come true.

Let me repeat that. It’s not my responsibility, or anyone else’s responsibility to make your dream come true. By taking responsibility, you will attract people that will give you help along the way.

My off-season basketball training workouts and having the courage to completely give myself to a basketball workout plan, to fail against better players, essentially allowed me to succeed by learning new skills and adapting my game by attracting coaches, trainers, and peers that wanted the same thing.

Oops, I forgot, Lebron is going by me!

“Help, help–” I yell.

Nene Hilario steps over to slow him down and I slip in front of Romeo Travis for the dump down pass.

Lebron is already anticipating this, slows his attack, keeps his head up and glides a ball into the spot where I was moving out of– an overhead pass that flips out of his hand like a pebble from a trebuchet.

The ball slams into the pulled back bleachers.

Basketball Theory 101 (with Lebron James):

Rule 1: Move to open spot for Lebron James, or in the line of sight with the driver, and give him a target.

Rule 2: If you don’t do Rule 1, tell Lebron, “My Bad.”

Not that I’m complaining at this point, it’s our ball and our defense is holding on for stops. I love playing help-side, watching the ball and man move, being ready to drop down for an easy steal or deflection to help my teammate that is beat off the dribble.

My coach in high school, Dennis Starkey (Michigan Hall of Famer) used to call these championship plays.

“Just because your beat, doesn’t mean your out of the play,” Coach Starkey would yell.


My Best Sports Blog – September 2016


Since high school, I was never ranked, never recruited, and no one thought I could play division one basketball. To get better, I knew I needed to find players that were better or higher ranked than me.  I went to Flint, Michigan. I went to Detroit. I went to Grand Rapids. I found talented players and competed against them.

As I got to the pros, I was competing against players like Lebron James, or Nene Hilario or Stephon Marbury, or Amare Stoudamire, or Jason Kidd, or Leandro Barbosa, or Penny Hardaway, or Shawn Marion, and suddenly, I realized how important my basketball workouts are.

Well planned basketball workouts prepare you for the season. They prepare you to become a hard worker, a better athlete, and a better person and player on and off the court. I am always teaching players at my basketball academies that it’s okay to compete like hell and lose.

We all have bad moments, bad workouts, or get nervous, or choke, or lose big games.

But real competitors just keep coming at you. They keep moving forward with courage, stick to their basketball workout plan and don’t quit.

Playing against Lebron James makes you realize how important your basketball workouts are, how focused and purposeful you have to be in your training to have any success.

Suddenly, D2 passes me the ball and I dribble it up into a drag screen with Nene. He slides to the hoop effortlessly, sucking in the help side like a vacuum. I kick it for a three in the corner.

We are winning three points to one.

As I’m running back on defense, an epiphany hits me, Nene Hilario is basically the Brazilian dude Blanca from the video game Street Fighter. He is flying around, rotating, blocking shots, doubling Lebron on the post, and making guys miss shots.


I love the way Nene plays and holds himself: his huge white grin, his bad English, and his positive energy. I’m realizing everything is happening faster than normal due to Lebron and Nene being on the court. Every decision is a half second faster. Every loose ball is in danger. Every offensive rebound is a possible tip dunk.

With these guys on the court, no one is safe.


Lebron sprints past me dribbling the ball. It’s remarkable. He is so damn fast, I honestly think he can beat Usain Bolt. But Nene keeps finding ways to get in front of him. As Nene sucks up another rebound like a gargantuan troll and whips an overhead pass out to my younger brother, something bad happens.

Unfortunately for D2, it’s slightly behind him.

D2 glances up and does something no one should ever do.

He steps in front of an oncoming Lebron James and waits.

Now, maybe this was from his years and years of playing me in one on one and learning in the fiery forges of failure how to give up your body for the success of your team.

Goodbye, young brother. Oh, how I’ll miss you.



Courage in Sports: The How of Courage in your Basketball Training

Hearing Lebron hit my brother was probably much like the sound a pancake makes when it’s dropped from a skyscraper. As Lebron is dragging him between his legs trying to slow down, my brother crumples and falls limp onto the ground.

I admire that about my brother. I admire his ability to put his body on the line to win. It’s what makes athletics and competing fun. Not everyone is born for this. We practice this quality of courage, day after day, and when we are sore, beat up, and broken down, we decide to get up and put our body on the line again.

Real athletes don’t realize how hard it is for normal people to do this, how much courage it takes to eat right, recover right, and find a way to train or practice again the next day. The beauty of sports is the mental game it takes to be successful.

If you aren’t having success with basketball, maybe you are approaching it the wrong way.

“The more we focus on solving other people’s problems, the more successful we will be.” ~ Chris Guillebeau

Maybe a question you can ask is: How can I make others look brilliant on and off the court like Lebron James?

I look over as Lebron tries to peel my younger brother up.

“You good?” Lebron asks. “C’mon man, get up.”

D2 shuts his eyes for a moment and then opens them again.

“I’m good–I’m good… they called a foul right?”

Lebron grins and we all start chuckling.

Nene is shaking his head, saying something in Portuguese and then we inbound the ball and are off and running again. It’s fun to run the point against Lebron. I try to attack with him on the strong side because Lebron helping from the weak side makes any pass a possible turnover.





Nene Hilario isn’t picking and popping or shooting threes. He is rim running and rim dunking. Running a pick and roll with Nene Hilario is like throwing a basketball into orbit and watching it get sucked into a black hole.

Which is so damn fun.

I mean, it makes me feel like a real life John Stockton. I mean every pass I can get within his vicinity is caught. Then after he catches it, he spins or bull charges his way to the rim and dunks or finishes or steamrolls every man, woman, and child in his path.

Nothing makes it out of Blanca’s electric slide, not even Lebron James.




We start building a lead. D2 is playing solid defense but hasn’t shot yet. I keep yelling at him to be a threat on offense (side note, if you can’t be a threat on offense, you are being selfish, it just makes it harder for the other four guys to do their thing).

The first game goes to us. The second game goes to us. The third. The fourth. The fifth. And fuming, focused Lebron hasn’t left the court. He keeps putting new teams together that may fit well with him.

Until game six starts. We are getting tired and Lebron is still flying up and down the court like a hyper gargantuan albatross. The momentum is changing and we can’t keep up. The King flies in from the weak side and dunks it with two hands and Nene, our defensive stalwart, puts his head down.

No wide white toothed smile this time.

No Blanca electric slide.

Our defensive lanes are opening up and they start rattling off easy point after easy point. That momentum that had been ours is now gone. I try to double Lebron in the post on game point and he spins by me on the baseline, bumping me off like a monster truck in the bumper car ride at the fair.

Earlier that week, I had just gotten up 275 pounds on the bench press, something I had been focusing on in my Tim Grover sports performance workouts.

I grab his arm as he takes off and he just takes me with him.

And one dunk to end the game.

The game is over and Lebron beats his chest to an imaginary crowd. He loves winning. He is a competitor. He keeps coming at you. Win or lose. And even better, he wants to win every moment of every game.

Lebron’s body, power, and athleticism are something out of a sci-fi movie. He is like playing NBA2k with the turbo button.

I feel honored to have played with him.

“Good game Bron,” I hear my brother say. Lebron daps him with a big fist pound.

“You all right?”

“Yeah, you rung my bell, but I’m fine.”

I dap a few of the players.

I dap Lebron.

I walk off the court and dap my teammates. I am already analyzing what we could have done differently. Maybe we should have forced him middle on the double? Maybe we should have fouled them in their open court situations to stop their transition?

Maybe, at this young age, Lebron is already starting to understand and analyze winning, how to train, workout, and compete. Lebron is an old basketball soul in one of the world’s most athletic bodies ever created.

I realize I’m staring directly at him and shake my head.

Man, he is so friggin’ good.

“Good work fellas, come back again,” Lebron says.

“Thanks for having us,” I say.

King James flashes his smile and walks back onto the court. “Who’s on next?” he yells.

I will never play against Lebron James again, but I know beating him felt good. I jog over to my younger brother.

“You okay?”

“I’m good.”

“You have fun?”

D2, my younger brother, the first player I ever trained and coached, grins as sweat drips down his forehead.

“Of course.”

“Well, why didn’t you shoot?”

“We were winning– and like you always said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Touche D2. Touche.

It takes courage to know what your team needs to win. It takes courage to show up day after day. It takes courage to fail, pivot your strategy, and keep moving forward. But day after day, your courage strengthens, your resolve strengthens, and ultimately, so does your game.