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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

George Mumford and Julius Erving Discuss Mindfulness

I mentioned the House Call With Dr. J Podcast last October and it is worth emphasizing again how wonderful these episodes are. They cover a lot more than basketball and it is a shame that no episodes have been added to the archives in recent months; I hope that does not mean that the project has been shelved.

I recently listened to the George Mumford conversation--the podcasts are much more like a dialogue than an interview--and it was the highlight of my lunch break, a great way to feed my mind while I fed my body before completing the work day.

Mumford was Erving's roommate during their college days at the University of Massachusetts. They hit it off immediately and developed a lifelong friendship. Mumford, a year behind Erving in school, looked up to the young basketball star not only because of Erving's on court prowess but also because of Erving's demeanor when interacting with people regardless of their station in life.

As Mumford put it during the podcast, "No matter what you're doing, it's who you're being that is really important."

Mumford's basketball career ended prematurely due to injuries, and eventually Mumford transitioned from the painkillers that he took to deal with those injuries to harder substances. Mumford prevailed over his drug addiction and became a world-renowned expert on mindfulness; Phil Jackson brought Mumford in to work with both the Chicago Bulls and also later with the L.A. Lakers. Mumford has trained a host of world-class athletes from a variety of sports about how to be in the moment and calm their racing thoughts.

Mumford cites Erving as both an influence and an inspiration and he sees similarities in the mindsets of Erving and two of the most prominent basketball players with whom he has worked: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Erving and Mumford discussed the mindset that it takes to be successful. Erving described himself as a "square" who has "never smoked a joint" and sees no reason to do so now. He said that his focus on what he needed to do to get where he was trying to go enabled him to sidestep the temptations that lured others away from the path to success. Erving was careful to say that he was not judging Mumford or anyone else who succumbed to drug addiction. Mumford said that when he was at his lowest point he distanced himself from Erving because he did not want to bring around Erving the kinds of people with whom he was associating.

Mumford admired the dedication that Erving showed to perfect his craft, always working on a new move or a new shot. Erving noted that it has always irritated him when people emphasize his "natural talents" as opposed to acknowledging how hard he worked, adding that it took him his whole life to become a so-called overnight success (success being defined by when the general public knows about your skills, as opposed to when and how those skills were actually developed).

Mumford pointed out that many people say that they want to be like Erving or Jordan or Bryant but few people are willing to pay the necessary price in terms of work and sacrifice.

Regarding Jordan, Mumford was struck by his tremendous concentration level. He began working with Jordan during Jordan's first comeback and they focused on changing Jordan's leadership style now that he had so many teammates who had not been members of Chicago's first three championship teams.

As for Bryant, Mumford told him, "Kobe, the best way to score is not to try to score...there is a difference between willing yourself and forming the intention and then allowing it to happen."

Mumford listed several characteristics that Erving, Jordan and Bryant share, with two of the most important being a basic intelligence about life--not just sports--and a singular commitment to excellence. Mumford cited as an example the way that Bryant persevered through an avulsion fracture to the index finger on his shooting hand by completely changing his shooting stroke and ultimately leading the Lakers to the 2010 championship. Mumford described what Bryant did as higher level thinking; if there is not a way, then you just figure out a way or make a way, something that most people cannot do. Mumford said that to do this you "Train the mind, connect it to the spirit."

Mumford mentioned three other traits that Erving, Jordan and Bryant have:

1) Positive energy
2) Social support
3) The ability to see stress as a challenge

When someone is on top of the world, it is easy to delude oneself into thinking that this was meant to be and had been smooth sailing but the reality is that it takes tremendous energy, support and persistence to achieve anything significant.

This podcast lasts less than 30 minutes and is well worth your time.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:36 AM



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