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For Elite NBA Players, Pressure is Biggest Opponent

By the time an elite player ascends to the NBA, that player has hoisted an almost incalculable number of shots, both in games and in practice. One would think that an NBA champion player like Steph Curry, would be so habitually skilled at the act of shooting a basketball that anytime the need arose, he could play with machine-like efficiency, without thought or emotion. If one were to think that, one would be wrong.

This is because Steph Curry is a human being, not a machine and the NBA isn’t Hollywood. Which is why when the need arose late in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Curry succumbed to the pressure of the moment. After Kyrie Irving hit a 3-pointer to give the opposing Cleveland Cavaliers the lead, Curry was driven by one thought: “I gotta go back at him.”

That’s what prompted Curry’s next shot attempt during the following Warriors possession.

"I'm like, 'I just need a little space'--and that's where I started to rush," Curry admitted. "I look back and think I could have easily scored two points. We could have gotten a stop, and then I could come back down and hit another shot, and we win another championship. Instead of going for the hero shot, which I felt like I could make. That was a shot where I was not under control. And it cost us a championship."

All great NBA players deal with pressure and must address the ways that it affects both mental state and physical performance. Curry learned his lesson the hard way, but took it to heart, helping to lead his team to two more championships in 2017 and 2018.

Potential Preaching Angles: Pressure builds when we place expectations on ourselves to perform, rather than trusting in God to do the work in and through us. We defeat that pressure by remaining steadfast and obedient to God’s word. We need to align our definition of success with God’s command of faithfulness.

Jackie MacMullan, “Rise above it or drown: How elite NBA athletes handle pressure” ESPN.com (6-1-19)

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