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SUCCESS…as defined by Chris Whitney
Success is defined as “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors,” or “the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.” With whichever criteria you want to use, former NBA player Chris Whitney has satisfied both. For those who are unfamiliar, Chris Whitney was a former Clemson University standout who went on to play 11 years in the NBA (for San Antonio, Orlando, Denver, and Washington), and is now the Director of Player Development for the Charlotte Bobcats. As with all successful people, all manifestations are initiated by a dream. So, I asked Chris when his dream began. He told me it started one day after church while he was at his grandmother’s house watching the 76ers play. He said he remembered hearing something about them getting paid to play and being as though he already loved playing, he endeavored to become an NBA player and purchase a house for both his mother and grandmother. Sweet kid, huh? We continued to converse briefly as I desired to learn more about his pathway to success.
JHayes: Given that the average NBA career is only around 5 years, how did you manage to stay for 11?
CWhit: “Through hard work, perfecting my craft. I understood what my niche was, you know, running the team, and being able to make an open 3 pt shot, and making everyone better and keeping everyone on the same page….I appreciate everything that happened for me during those 11 years.”
JHayes: What are the biggest lessons you learned through each transition of your life, meaning from high school to college, college to pro, and now, from pro to the business side of the NBA?
CWhit: “Regardless of whatever thing that you’re in, business, basketball, football, any sport or what have you, you have to be dedicated to what you’re trying to do. And if you do that, you’ll do the things that you need to succeed.”
JHayes: What is the biggest flaw that you see in most players today in their mental approach to the game?
CWhit: “They don’t understand how important the mental approach to the game is. It’s really 99% because everyone at the NBA level, they can play. But it’s the thing that’s off the court that doesn’t allow them to prepare, to participate, and play the way they should play every night….They don’t know how to prepare off the court and before the games.”
JHayes: What was your preparation?
CWhit: “Go to shoot around. I’d get the scouting report, read it there, take it home, read it. Go home, watch film, if I had it. And then come back to the arena and go get my shots ups and then again watch the team that I’m going to be playing that night.”
JHayes: As being the director of player development, what life skills do you impart upon your group of athletes?
CWhit: “It depends on the player, his experience, where he comes from. It even goes down to how many people and what type of people hang around him…Each player is totally different.”
JHayes: When did you start preparing for life after basketball, meaning after playing?
CWhit: “Honestly, I really didn’t. That’s one thing that I regret…I didn’t network the way I could have and should have. And that’s one of the things that I do impart upon these younger guys, that everyone wants a part of you and start thinking about life after basketball.”
Inevitably, what I learned is that success originates with a dream that is fueled by a passion which creates a certain mindset or determination to achieve a desired goal. It then continues with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for objectives already achieved. Ultimately, the culminating event for the realization of successes attained is in the confident ability to serve others. So, really, how successful are you?