I have no background in meditation and mindfulness. Not unless you count me yelling out “ZEN” in the hallways in high school.
Phil Jackson became a really fascinating figure for me as a young basketball player. The way he coached my two favorite players, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The way he would talk about basketball and life. That was enough to keep me at least interested in the concept of mindfulness without even knowing what that word was yet.
The need to have a strong and prepared mind became most clear as I went through my college basketball career. It took me time to master the effort and mindset of what it took to perform at a high level as a student-athlete. I was too focused on the athlete side.
I used to have a really hard time controlling my emotions. That’s one way of saying I used to have a temper problem, or, I used to let things get to me. This wasn’t simply a matter of poor focus or discipline. It was a blockage that prevented me from embracing my true self.
In 2018 I was a few years in as an independent skills trainer. That summer I met another trainer named Tyrell Grant, who runs a creative lifestyle brand called Let Me Eat with his brother.
One of the first times I spent time with them at their house, they asked if I wanted to meditate with them real quick before I left to go home. They asked in a way that suggested it wasn’t uncommon for them. Not having formally meditated before with others, I felt completely comfortable tapping in and sitting still with them for about 30 minutes.
Within months of meeting, together we hosted our first Spread Love Invitational Camp in New Jersey. One of the first aspects of the camp we agreed on was a station for yoga, stretching, and guided meditation.
Fast forward to this past February. We hosted a free Spread Love clinic in Chicago during NBA All-Star Weekend. The Meditation Center of Chicago agreed to come by and lead our meditation session with the youth. That connection manifested into the center leading our virtual meditations via Zoom for the last several months as the pandemic struck.
Basketball is a lot. Within a flowing and often frantic pace you’re having to use a variety of skills and instincts, essentially using your entire body in coordination on both offense and defense at all times.
That’s one of the ways basketball has translated to life for me. The pace of each day and each moment.
In basketball you can easily have your weaknesses exploited. People know what you look like. There are no helmets and there’s no equipment. It’s an intimate game. You’re making decisions in tight and tense spaces.
As a basketball trainer now, it can’t just be about training the body. We have to challenge players to train their minds and their souls. The slightest internal battle can become a congestive blockage with the power to consume any amount of dominant talent.
That’s not to mention the need to deal with the pressures of life and external battles, like issues with family or friends, or a viral pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of people, or severe racial injustice overtaking the country.
Proper meditation is needed now more than ever for basketball players, athletes, and everyone.
I want players to understand there is true power in positivity instead of giving into anger or frustration. That this isn’t about being perfect or religious or even all the way good. It’s about mastering yourself, and whatever level you’re at, finding a way to ascend further.