Talent Doesn’t Make You Great: New Sports Illustrated Column

October 16, 2014

This one is for all the guys who firmly believe that their entire lives would have been completely different—wealthier, happier, sexier—if only they had been given the rare and awesome ability to jump.

Let me make you feel better: I don’t test my players’ vertical jump.  I’ll test it if someone asks me to, if a player or team really wants to know, but to me, it’s a shallow prediction of what an individual can actually accomplish as a competitive athlete, a measure of talent, not skill.  Talent and skill aren’t the same thing; the world is full  of talented people who have never achieved anything.

When I started working with Michael Jordan in 1989, his vertical jump was 38 inches. By today’s standards, that might not even get you drafted in the top ten;  Andrew Wiggins reportedly had a 44” vertical jump before he was drafted #1 in 2014.  Eventually we got MJ up to 42”, and then 48”, using the training program which later became my book JUMP ATTACK. But we weren’t specifically training for vertical jump; we trained for overall explosiveness and skill, and the vertical increase was just a by-product of the training.

It’s just a number. You know those people in school who always got good grades but were complete dunces in real life? Same principle here: If you train for a one-dimensional test, you’ll be a one-dimensional athlete. The truth is, the ability to jump straight up into the air one time in a completely controlled situation doesn’t indicate what you can do during a game. Can you do it with two guys in your face and another waiting to clock you when you come down? With the game on the line and lights in your eyes? Falling backwards? What about the second or third jump? That’s what I want to see. Game results, not test results. MJ and Kobe have scored more than 30,000 points in their careers; I’m not a stat guy but I’m pretty sure most of those points didn’t come from dunks.   Read more at SI.com.....