Toughness is a trait in an athlete that is often misused especially in basketball. Most sportswriters and analysts equate toughness as being fired up and visibly intense.
Toughness, in all reality, is making smart decisions and playing in the team dynamic. This includes taking smart fouls, making free throws, being "clutch," and playing hurt.
So, to sort the mess that is the definition of toughness, I have compiled a list of things that make a basketball player tough, both mentally and physically.
Toughness is giving more on your end of the floor than on offense. Any superstar, or any basketball player for that matter, can score, but it is the great players that prevent their opponents from scoring.
Toughness is not saving your energy for the next quarter or next game. Treat every minute you play basketball as if it is the most important game or most important practice of your life. Leave it all on the court, and you will be amazed at the results.
Toughness is not whining about fouls or dirty play. Many people give examples of tough players, and many of the medias go-to tough guys are leading their team, or the entire league, in technical fouls. A tough player knows not to cost his team points by arguing with the officials.
Toughness is taking good, clean charges. Don't confuse this with flopping, what I mean here is stepping in front of your man and establishing your position in order to alter his shot or draw a foul. Vlade Divac and Manu Ginobili are not tough, but the players who lay their body on the line to take good, hard charges are among the toughest players in sports.
Toughness is putting the team first. Every player can make themselves look good on any given night, but the tough players put the team ahead of their own personal stats and achievements. The most important stat in sports is the numbers on the scoreboard when the clock hits zero.
Toughness is playing through the foul. Good players draw fouls; great tough players draw the foul and score. Which leads me to...
Toughness is making your free throws. The best sign of a tough, disciplined player is his free-throw percentage. Did he put in the work to do his best?
Toughness is being there first. First to practice, first to games, first on the bus, first to high-five his teammates, first to pick up his teammate after a charge or foul—the team players are always there first.
Toughness is working hard to get open. It is easy to get your touches when your defender makes a mistake, but it is tough to make the effort to get the ball with a defender in your shorts.
Toughness is wanting and making the shot when it counts. Tough players get their team wins when the pressure is on.
Toughness is discipline. How about that? Can we finally get rid of the word toughness from our sports vocabulary? It is now called being a disciplined player, not a tough player.
Toughness is blocking shots inbounds. Any jumper can block a shot into the fifteenth row, but a tough player will block it to his teammates in contrast to going for the highlight reel.
Toughness is versatility. Any player will be good at one thing, but the toughest players will take the time to be good at everything.
Toughness is playing hard, not playing dirty. You can play hard, and use hand checks and putting the hand in the face. But tough players do not take cheap shots.
Toughness is wanting the ball with the game on the line. The tough players will want their teams chances riding on one shot, and they relish the moment.
So there you have it, that is what toughness is in basketball.