April 27, 2010 by David Gillaspie
If you’ve wondered why Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz is a different kind of player, then read on for the answer.
For a clue, look at his shoulders. Now find an image of Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant, Kevin McHale, or any guy built like a coathanger.
Two of those three look like their arms might fall off if they move them too much. Garnett’s arms might fall off too, but they would still find someone to annoy.
Durant is famous for filling up the basket and for not being able to push 185 on the bench, the NBA weight standard like 225 is the NFL standard.
What makes Deron Williams different? It’s not the tats or the ‘do. NBA players with more ink and peculiar haircuts are easy to find. Denver’s Birdman has it covered on both accounts.
You can find a list of NFL players who wrestled back in the day. It’s a good list full of tough, tough men used to getting beat around and pounding everyone in their way. Not so with the ectomorphs running around the NBA.
My research (rumor and wiki) turns up why Deron Williams is the best point guard in the business.
He’s a wrestler. A kid wrestling champion. A Texas state champ in elementary and middle school.
When is the last time you saw kid wrestling and thought one of the guys on the mat would be an NBA superstar in the near future? How about never.
Now watch Deron Williams play. His fakes are wrestling fakes. His baits are wrestling baits. He lulls his defenders into relaxing a moment too long before driving past them. On defense the guy has a strange presence, an odd awareness of the space around him. He is used to smaller areas of competition, like a mat, and shrinks the space an opponent gets to work in.
What does this mean? For parents, it means get your kid on the mat early. Give him a base of conditioning and grit to take to other sports. Let him feel what it’s like to win and lose alone. Do that and he’ll be a better athlete, and more important, a better teammate.
Most of the time wrestling is an end in itself. Talk about accountability and committment to wrestlers and you’re preaching to the choir. Talk about how wrestling makes you a better athlete, a better person in other sports, and you’re breaking new ground.
The lessons of the mat extend to school, work, and relationships. If you lose a match, you know who to blame. If you lose a match to a five time regional/district/ champ, or just someone more accomplished than you, it’s not about blame. It’s about getting better and doing the work to be more competitive.
If you study hard but don’t get the grade you expected, you won’t be afraid to talk to the teacher. If something goes wrong at work and you get the blame when it’s not your fault, you won’t be afraid to talk to the boss. Wrestling does that for you.
Most important, if the biggest relationships in your life need some corrections, you’ll have an approach you believe in based on the coaching you got after winning and losing matches. You’ve listened when you didn’t want to. You’ve showed up when you could have run and hid. And you expect the same from others.
This is what I see Deron Williams doing on the basketball court. A roundball wrestler. Watch how he works the game, how he interacts with teammates, opponents, and refs. I see respect, but also an expression that says he could kick their butts if they don’t shape up.
What more could you ask for on the hardwood?