By Elijah Medge, Los Angeles, October 2015
Basketball is a great sport. It’s the perfect release for competitive energy and it’s far more fun than running. Who honestly likes to just run? There’s so much finesse and intelligence required to play the game well, so watching it is great too. A lifelong fan of the sport, I’ve followed many players over the years. Some have become all-stars, others just role players; some have pulled in the big contracts, and others have settled for the bench.
Admittedly, I never much liked Kobe Bryant as a player, but he’s the first to come to mind when I think about whom I respect most on the court. For nineteen years he has demonstrated tenacity, stamina, resiliency, grit, and a winning spirit. He is a 17-time NBA All-Star; a 5-time NBA champion; the youngest player to score 32,000 points — and there is so much I could say about his famously competitive nature and impeccable work ethic. Instead, I’d like to focus on something unknown to most…
Kobe Bryant officially holds the record for the most missed shots in NBA history. Think about that. He has failed more times than Jordan, Wilkins, Nowitzki, Malone, and all the other greats. Making more mistakes than anyone in your industry sounds like it should make for a failed career, right? You’d probably think so if you didn’t already know the full story.
This anecdote from a 2014 interview with Bryant is a great illustration of his tenacious mentality: Bryant was asked about another player who changed his strategy after missing 9 shots, deciding it was better to pass, rather than shoot. Bryant responded, “I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9.” He would fail more times. Bryant went on to explain that stopping at 9 attempts is an indication of a loss of self-confidence and “[psyching] yourself out of the game”.
Most people are afraid of repeated failure. Moreover, most people forget that failure is a prerequisite for success because we live in a society that so frequently discourages mistakes. A child who receives a failing grade is punished by her parents; an employee who makes the wrong call his fired by his manager; an entrepreneur who is struggling is encouraged by her family to find a new career path. But, ironically, those with enough chutzpah to ignore societal pressure are the ones who become the biggest successes. Successful people appreciate the numbers game in which more attempts mean more wins.
At the end of an accolade-rich career, Kobe Bryant is unlikely to be remembered for his missed shots. But it’s the shots he missed that built the player he will be remembered as.
Elijah Medge (Los Angeles, CA) owns and manages direct marketing firms throughout the United States. He is a coach and mentor to budding and experienced entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. Be sure to connect on Facebook and Tumblr.