Basketball: A Test and a Tool

Basketball has always been an important part of my life. In the beginning, it was just another fun activity. 

But as I reflect on what basketball means to me now, its much different.

In this post, I’ll talk about the roll basketball currently it plays in my life and the two important functions it serves for me.

1) A Test

First, basketball tests whether I’m truly living up to the values I believe in. In particular, hard work, discipline and the constant pursuit of excellence. If I slack off during a basketball workout, it nags at me. I can’t seem to let it go until I get back into the gym.

I’ve always wondered why that feeling is so persistent. Why can’t I just let it go? I can’t get it out of my head because I’m contradicting what I believe in. Taking it easy during a workout flies in the face of some of my deepest values. That inconsistency between my actions and my values gnaws at me until I can fix it. 

2) A Tool

Second, basketball acts as a tool for personal growth. Although I have an idea of the type of person I want to become, that future person is different from who I am now.

He has certain positive attributes that I currently don’t embody and negative attributes that I do. Basketball provides a vehicle through which I can shape who I am. I can work to emphasize positive attributes and minimize negative ones. In doing so, I strive to become the best version of myself.

For example, I’ve always feared failure. And although fear of failure has probably driven me to work hard, it limits me in many other ways. Rather than playing to win, it’s easy to fall into the trap of playing not to lose. Rather than attacking the basket, it’s safer to pull the ball back out. 

This fear of failure manifests itself outside of basketball as well. To the detriment of personal growth and exciting life experiences, I tend not to take risks and stay well within my comfort zone 

This is a part of me that I want to improve. The best version of myself doesn’t fear failure.

Through basketball, I'm working to limit that fear. This offseason, I made a concerted effort to put myself in positions on the court where I will likely fail (in pickup games, 1 v 1, and skill drills). And although I’ve improved significantly, there’s still definite progress to be made.

Through basketball, I’m training myself to embrace failure as part of the process for improving. In doing so, I’m trying to shape the person I am to better match the person I want to be. I doubt I'll ever become the exact person that I've pictured, but basketball gives me a structure to work towards it.

In the end, it’s the pursuit of excellence that I’m after. Not perfection. I strive for excellence in character and excellence in performance. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that basketball is a vehicle for that.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of basketball itself. I love the thrill of competition. I love the feeling of satisfaction after a brutally tiring workout. Playing basketball is a ton of fun. 

But what I love most about the game is that I can use it to work toward becoming the best version of myself.