In the section, titled, “The Basket Stays Stationary”, of his new book, Mamba Mentality, Kobe Bryant described how one player, Shane Battier, would try to guard him on the basketball court. Whenever Kobe would go to shoot, instead of attempting to block his shot, Battier would point his hand towards Kobe’s face, obstructing his view of the basket. (My favorite instance of this, which a quick Google Images search will reveal, is a time when Battier actually had his hand on Kobe’s face as Kobe shot, and, since I’m a biased fan, I remember Kobe making this shot anyway.) This is what Kobe had to say about this defensive tactic: “When someone like Shane Battier face-guarded me, it didn’t really impact my game. I believed that I could shoot through it. The basket wasn’t moving, so muscle memory just kicked into work. I didn’t have to see the rim to make a bucket.”
Though he’s talking about a very physical thing here--how muscle memory from his excessive training and repetition helped him even when he could not see--, I couldn’t help but see a metaphor in it. I thought of my own goals, the ones I’ve been obsessing about setting for 2019, and how even now, my view seemed obstructed. I’ve had in my mind all of the obstacles that could prevent me from reaching my goals rather than the goals themselves and have felt like I’d had my tires spinning in mud for the past few days. Reading this, I realized how pointless dwelling on my obstacles was. It would be like Kobe focusing on the hand in his face rather than the basket.
And, like Kobe, I need to believe that I can “shoot” through these obstacles. My goals won’t nor should they move or change depending on the obstacles between them and me, just as the basket stays stationary. I know what I want and want it strongly enough that I need to have faith in my own process. Sure, I don’t know how long it’s going to take to reach some of my goals--I don’t have a measurement as clear as an athlete would know the distance from any spot on the court to the basketball hoop--, but if I can make sure that I’ve laid out clear, practical steps for obtaining my goals, all that there’s left to do is put in the work to keep improving and building meaningful connections with the people in my field. The rest will sort itself out.
There was an article I ran into and couldn’t help reading when I searched for that photo of Battier literally touching Kobe’s face on the shot attempt. The writer said of this situation that, “with most players, this is distraction enough -- he's going to stick his finger in my eye! --but great shooters like Bryant are so locked in that it's often as if the defender doesn't exist.” That’s what I want to be--“so locked in” that it’s as if the obstacles don’t exist.