The “Dog”in You

 

A few years ago, a high school senior that I coached in Atlanta, Georgia was being recruited by an NAIA school in South Carolina for basketball. I drove the kid out to the school on an official visit so he could meet the coaches, see the campus and get a little workout with the team. As I sat in the room with a few of the college basketball coaches and answered questions about how they could land this recruit, I thought it would be wise to increase my knowledge of the game since it was my first year with a clipboard in my hand. I asked the seasoned head coach of that school a series of coaching related questions. He answered the best he could, and then he got really serious when he told me what he needed on his roster.

He loved shooters, defenders, and unselfish guys, but most of all he needed dogs. “Is this kid a dog?”air bud dog

He inquired firmly and I wasn’t totally sure how to answer. I said that he had displayed spurts of “dogness” and “dogicity.”  They chuckled…but since I was still in student mode, I fired a question back at him: if a player isn’t a dog, can you inject some canine in him? He swiftly replied no. He said, “But if there’s some dog deep down inside him…I can find it.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s used in sports to define a relentless player that has a killer instinct and competitive nature that doesn’t involve backing down. Dogs don’t believe in excuses, they love to be challenged, and they exhibit supreme confidence because they train just as hard as they play. It’s deeper than being a superb talent or having a will to win. Canines are carnivorous beings that will slay their own flesh and blood on a playing field to obtain victory. Think Allen Iverson or Kevin Garnett. Michael Jordan had a cutthroat spirit that carried over into the golf course, the gambling arena, and the boardroom. He made up self-victimizing lies in his head before games so he could be angry at his opponents.jordan1 Nowadays you see guys like Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, and maybe even Draymond Green just to name a few that have a kill-switch that they hit when it’s time to destroy an adversary.

Of course during my own self-reflection I thought about this seemingly natural trait and wondered if I was one of those people with the deep down dog buried within. Shamefully, I attempt to motivate youngsters on the court with a whistle around my neck using encouraging words, but at times, I envy the potential-filled position they are in. And as much as I sarcastically scold someone for “not wanting it” bad enough, I feel like I am speaking to the 15-year-old version of myself at times. I want to tell these students that their coach didn’t play with an edge in high school, he wasn’t a killer, and he knows what it’s like to think he’s really good, but never reach his full potential. Who wants to hear that story as motivation? Read the rest of this entry »

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Dear Kobe,

This was written before Kobe’s retirement announcement. Had I known this would be his final season, I may have approached this letter differently. But I think it still fits…check it out.

Let me preface this by saying I am a huge Kobe Bryant fanatic. This didn’t just start a few years, months, or days ago…I’ve been watching the dude since 1995 when I was still in high school. I heard about Kobe Bryant when he was a junior at Lower Merion and of course I was skeptical. Then I saw some footage of him and I officially became a hater. I was a year older than him and he was making headlines for talking about being NBA ready.

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A year later I was away at junior college in Iowa watching the McDonald’s All-American game and I was jealous because Ed Cota from Brooklyn got to play in that game on Kobe’s team and I foolishly thought because I played against Ed that maybe I was good enough to be there. I wasn’t. Watching Kobe go through warm-ups and seeing the way he carried himself during that game, I told everyone that he was next up. I didn’t know for sure but I saw a dude that had a true mission that transcended some silly high school all-star game and loaning his talents to the collegiate world for a year so they could capitalize off his greatness. He was focused on being the next Jordan. Let me rephrase that, he was determined to be better than Jordan. He even told Michael that he could beat him once he arrived in the league.

 

Dear Mr. Bryant,

I know that I am a stranger to you. I’ve read Mad Game, watched every documentary that told a piece of your story, I even bought your expensive shoes a few times and that still gives me no right to address you directly. But last week I watched you compete against the Golden State Warriors while they were on a quest to break a record for being undefeated to begin a basketball season. They were successful and easily skated to a 40-point blowout and no one was surprised. The Lakers look like a college team when it comes to their cohesiveness and fire. Maybe Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell can’t play in your enormous shadow. Or could it be that the talent on the young team isn’t what we thought it was? I won’t go as far as to say that you guys should have drafted Mudiay or Okafor, but I feel like if you had a killer on your team, you could sniff him out and crown him. lakers

But this isn’t about those dudes, this is about what I witnessed the other night. Read the rest of this entry »