If you can take a story from a 7’4 NBA player and immediately apply it to your elementary school daughters, you know the guy has a good story. Former auto mechanic turned NBA all-star Mark Eaton was nice enough to swing by the office for lunch and an interview. One of his stories I liked best is that even with a natural advantage (being 7’4), he still had to work extremely hard to succeed.
When I got home that evening, I asked my daughters this question- If you knew you were going to be on the bench and wouldn’t get in the game, would you still work hard at practice? My oldest daughter immediately said, “Yes, so I can get in the game!”. My youngest daughter wasn’t so sure, so I shared part of Mark’s story. Spotted by a junior college coachon an LA street corner on his way to his job as an auto mechanic, Mark eventually made it onto UCLA’s squad, where he sat the bench. In his senior year, he played a total of just 41 minutes during the entire season. However, following the advice of the junior college coach who helped him get started, he made sure to make every practice count. He’d treat every practice like it was the game, where he’d try to out-work and out-hustle everyone. He’d be the first person to the gym and the last person to leave.
After graduation, he and his old coach began cold calling NBA teams for a tryout, because no one had ever heard of him. One team, the Jazz, were so desperate that they gave a tryout to a guy who couldn’t get off the bench in college. That 7 feet, four inches of height wasn’t enough to get him into a game in college, but adding that to those thankless years of hard work paid off. Mark not only got in the game, but he became a starter. He became not just a starter, but an All-Star and two-time Defensive Player Of The Year on a perennial playoff team, going from a total of 41 minutes of game time his senior year to over 25,000 minutes of playing time over 11 years against the best players in the world in the NBA.
So, I got to share his message right away with my daughters- natural ability has it’s place, but you’ll go so much farther if you combine it with hard work.
Here’s my interview with Mark Eaton:
Special thanks to Eric Woodie for the video work.