There's confidence, and there's cockiness.
The NBA is notorious for producing both. And while both are notorious for producing results, the distinction between the two is vast.
In the mental game of sports, it is this distinction amongst world-class athletes that is a well-studied phenomenon with sports psychologists. The best summation to describe the difference I've found is...
Confidence can get you to the top. Cockiness is thinking you are already there.
But what if you're so good at something that the world deemed you "the best"? Golden State Warriors' star Stephen Curry is being touted as the best shooter in the NBA. Ever. He possesses a shot so finely tuned that when the ball releases from his hands, he can confidently turn away, and look to the crowd before it skims through the hoop. One of many reasons he holds the prestigious league title of 2015 MVP.
Confident? Definitely. Cocky? Not from where I'm sitting.
- Don't be afraid to admit you're green.
"I don't know, it's my first time here."
This is a quote Curry often cites in response to questions in his post-game interviews. While it comes from a genuine place, it's a reminder of how his game is at such conflict with his experience that the general public often forgets. An honest admission of yourself creates a level a humility and admiration.
- Don't let one game define you.
"One game is not going to make me stop shooting or alter my confidence at all. I know as a team we're not going to let one game alter our belief that we're going to win the series. We've got to move on and be ready to play a good team that's ready to go home."
- Don't believe the noise.
There's been a narrative throughout the series that quickly transformed into media frenzy. The gritty, hard-nosed, heroic defense of Cleveland Cavalier's Matthew Dellavedova's was "locking down the league's MVP". Or as Cav's fans cited, "the Curry Kitchen is closed and the Delly is open". This instrumental component of the Cavalier's 2-1 series lead going into Game 4, caused Curry to struggle. His response?
"I'll review the films, and change my game...take the same shots, and lock-in. I doubt this will happen again, with the adjustments I'll make once I'll look at the film."
The Warriors head into Game 6 up 3-2 with a chance to win it all in on Tuesday-a safe bet that for Curry, the noise was silenced.
- Don't ever think it's too late.
In Game 5, 17 of Curry's 37 points happened in the fourth quarter when he lit up. His struggles felt like months ago when he literally saved the best for last, finishing with a 104-91 victory, making the Warriors one game away from winning the title since 1975.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Ok. So it helps that Curry can pass a basketball behind his back like most of us can flip a peanut in our mouths. However, the number of assists he's having per game, demonstrates his disbelief in being able to do it all himself. His reliance on veterans like Andre Iguodala, who matched Curry's 22 points in game four, and incessant prying for open spaces on the court for both himself, and his teammates, is proof in his incredulity in the power of one.
- Keep 'em on their toes.
Ok, this one clearly breaks the cadence, but I had to throw it in. Late in Game 5, Curry, 1:1 with Dellavedova, spun him like a top, as he hit him with a jab step that backed him up two yards, and then swished a stepback three. If you don't know what that means, an easier way to say it is, he "made him dance like he was on ice." If you watched it live or when it blew up in the Twittersphere, then you know what I'm talking about. If you didn't, it's worth it to do so here.
"I feel confident because I'm the best player in the world,"
...said Cavalier's star LeBron James about finishing series.
The Warriors will try to win their first major sports championship in 40 years on Tuesday night in Cleveland against LeBron and the Cavaliers. As the best shooter in the NBA takes on the best player in the NBA-(both stats arguable), pay close attention to "confidence versus cockiness". In this series and in your own game of life, ask yourself- as an MVP, which one will prevail?