Every athlete feels it. It could be little flutters in your stomach. It could be a slight weakness in your legs. It could even be tightness in your chest. You try to ignore it. You try to block it out, but it's there and it won't go away. It's not a heart attack, but it might feel like one. It's not food poisoning, though at least that would pass soon. No, that tension gripping your muscles and your mind is one thing and one thing only: pressure. Some guys can handle it and some can't.
Tonight, the best athletes on the planet are facing off in Miami to determine the NBA Championship. For the Heat and LeBron James, one more win brings the first of many promised titles to South Beach. For the Thunder and Kevin Durant, one loss and their quest for a title ends abruptly on Biscayne Boulevard. Both teams know what's at stake. They know the whole world is watching. Under the brightest lights, on the biggest stage, here's how the superstars of the NBA Finals deal with the pressure to perform.
Avoid Overload by Giving Your Mind a Break – LeBron James, F, Miami Heat
When you’ve been building towards an important moment in your life, be it in your career or in competition, it’s only natural to begin obsessing over the outcome. Don’t. Your mind needs to be clear for you to perform your best and one way to do that is to give it some time off from the stress of reaching your goal. LeBron James, who is arguably feeling the most pressure of anyone in these NBA Finals, has found a unique way to let his mind relax; he reads books, lots of them (including the Hunger Games trilogy, apparently). And here’s his reason why:
“It just slows my mind down. It gives me another outlet. Throughout the playoffs, all you think about is basketball. All you want to do is play basketball. But at the same time it can become a lot. It can come to a point where it’s overloading to the mind and you think about it too much. It’s hard to get away from it because you’re playing every other day, you talk about it every single day, you prepare every single day. The reading has given me an opportunity for those couple of hours of the day or those 20, 25 minutes before the game, it just gives me an opportunity to read and think about something else. It’s made me comfortable. I’m not saying it’s the trick. It’s just something that I decided to do at the beginning of the postseason and it’s worked for me.”
Let it Fly – Shane Battier, F, Miami Heat
Pressure situations can cause you to pull back for fear of making a mistake. More often than not, that hesitation will end up causing a mistake. If you trust that you’ve put in the time and the dedication and you believe in the plan that you’ve followed, hold nothing back in the big moment. This is exactly Shane Battier’s philosophy about performing in the playoffs:
“When you put your heart and your soul into preparation and in the games and you let it fly, you can always live with the results. I believe that. It’s something that Coach K (Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski) talked about. It’s not about accolades, it’s not about your resume, it really isn’t. It’s about throwing yourself into a situation and doing your best. If you can do that you can live with any result or consequence.”