“The immortals step out of their comfort zone in order to expand it.” – Lee Jenkins in SI
Reading some basketball news the other day, I came across a remarkable story over at Sports Illustrated, Right Turn: There are makeovers, and then there’s this (by Lee Jenkins).
Cleveland Cavaliers player Tristan Thompson (who is Canadian!), has worked this off-season to make a change to his game. Using the off-season to introduce a new element is nothing new, and the article notes that “Larry Bird famously added one element to his hoops repertoire every summer, and subsequent generations have been peer-pressured to follow suit.” However, a change the magnitude of Thompson’s is not known to have ever occurred: Tristan Thompson is changing his shooting hand.
In his own words, “I became a whole new person.”
Thompson, a highly-touted prospect who made the NBA as a lefty shooter, only began to consider the switch when a teammate, Jeremy Pargo, challenged him to a shooting contest with their off hands. The pair discovered that Thompson’s shooting motion was much more natural. Thompson was a solid enough interior player, but teams knew he put up bricks from the foul line and rarely took a shot from outside 8 feet. However, as Pargo told him of the potential of the switch, “You should do this all the time. You look better. You look more natural. You’ll always be a solid player, but you could be an All-Star.”
Quoting again from the story at SI, “Thompson studied the footage at home, asking himself whether he could sacrifice what amounted to his life’s work—and whether he could live with himself if he didn’t. He remembered how he left Canada at 16 for a superior basketball education in the U.S., how he declared for the draft as a freshman and how the temporary discomfort paid off.”
Thompson had a track record of doing whatever it took to pursue his dreams, so he had an interesting take on the matter:
“A lot of people stick with what they know because they’re insecure about putting something new out there and getting embarrassed. I don’t want to sit here in 12 years and think, ‘What if I made that change? Could I have been one of the best power forwards in the league? Could our team have taken a leap?’ – Tristan Thompson
In Jenkins’ words, “The immortals step out of their comfort zone in order to expand it.”
The story goes on to explain how no one can find a precedent for this type of change, and describes the work that Thompson put in with the team’s coaches and trainers, but I’ll let you pop over for those bits.
I’m very glad I stumbled upon this story, as it drove home the importance of facing hard realities, including the necessity of change. Thompson is risking literally millions of dollars in future earning potential in order to become a more complete player – he’s trying to undo and then redo something that he’s been working on for 10 years. I recall, as well, how Tiger Woods introduced a new swing, a move that had pundits scratching their heads but that carried his game to new heights (OK, I’m thinking back quite a few years!).
The story has me thinking of my own life: what things do I take for granted cannot be changed? Are they as fixed as I think? I can’t see myself suddenly changing my dominant kicking foot in soccer, but there might be other opportunities. Perhaps with my mind a bit more open to the possibility of change, I’ll see potential items that I never would have otherwise considered.
Getting back to Tristan Thompson… The NBA season tipped off this week, so how did things go for him in the first game of the season? Playing against the rebuilt New Jersey Nets, Thompson sank 8 of his 13 field goal attempts went 2 of 4 from the charity stripe, and scored a team-high 18 points. Not too shabby.
Update: for anyone wondering, here are a couple of other articles on the story: