Success is not just talent alone. The list of talented players who never made a career in the NBA could circle the earth. The league is full of individuals who possessed super talents and super skills but failed to make it or stay in the NBA. And it's not surprising why.
Sure, players could get by on talent alone in high school. The superior talented ones even slipped by in college. While they found success and were coddled, this actually was their undoing. They had the wrong attitude. Their success really wasn’t a result of a work ethic or a different approach but relied solely on talent.
But the NBA has too many players that have either talent or a work ethic. If you only have one, you can’t compete. You must have both.
We're not talking just superstars, either. Although, typically, when you combine great talent with driven work ethic, it can be a formula for superstar. But that won't be only who we look at.
We want guys with the baddest work ethic, period. Regardless of role, status, you name it. (So, don't expect this to just be a list of All-Stars!)
So, who then has transcended the average and sits on top of that list?
And, what players have worked to improve their game on both ends or get in better physical shape?
Even more, which players take work ethic to legendary status?
Lastly, who aims not to achieve but overachieve?
Here are the top 25 baddest work ethics in the game today.
Ben Wallace- The human rebound and shot-blocking machine got this way from hard work. Big Ben is blue collar all the way. He is synonymous with Detroit and hard work.
Rip Hamilton- One of the hardest-working gym rats you’ll ever find. His mid-range shot didn’t happen by accident but hard work.
Manu Ginobili- His work ethic transformed this international player into a NBA All-Star. And his hard work not only benefited the San Antonio Spurs to NBA titles, but Manu also carried his Argentinian team to Olympic gold in 2004.
Shane Battier- No one outside of Kobe Bryant studies more tape than Battier. He is a consistent defensive performer and has serious three-point range. That all came from hours in the gym.
Tayshaun Prince- A guy who started out strong only on the defensive end, this guy worked hard and put in the hours to be a solid offensive player as well. He is still one of Detroit’s best players.
Stephen Curry- Can you say Ray Allen for the 21st Century? This guy takes jumpers until he is dead tired. And it shows. He got this work ethic from his NBA dad, Dell.
Gilbert Arenas- Agent Zero worked out with the same trainer as D-Wade, Kobe and Michael Jordan and claims the hard work saved his career after a terrible knee injury. Arenas has strong work ethic but it is lost in all the hype surrounding the guy.
His hard work made him an All-Star in 2009-2010 and helped push his Charlotte Bobcats into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Wallace plays with reckless abandon and is willing to jeopardize his body to win.
The fifth-oldest player in the NBA is also one of the most fit. Coincidence? Afraid not. Hill will get in a workout, even on a road trip, the morning of a game. This keeps his body humming.
The 47th-pick overall has turned himself into a serious player and, right now, probably the Cavs go-to player. His hard work created a reliable jumper from nearly unlimited distance.
He spent one year in Los Angeles as a teammate of Kobe Bryant, and it shows. Butler was even quoted in a Dallas newspaper stating that the thing he learned the most in LA was hard work. It showed in Washington, where Butler became an All-Star with the Wizards. The hard work continues in Dallas now with the Mavs.
The 17th pick and look what he has turned himself into. Another consistent work ethic. If he was in a bigger market or on a more successful team, everyone would know about him, not just regular fans.
One of the first international players to really realize the NBA is a man’s game. He put in the work, and it shows with one of the most massive offensive arsenals in the game. And, for a man his size, other than Tim Duncan, Dirk is at the top of the list with one of the best outside shooting touches, ever.
The 26th pick of his draft and look at him now. One of the littlest guys in the NBA, but don’t let his size fool you.
The Big Fundamental didn’t get this way just because he is tall. He worked at it, constantly. He might be the tallest gym rat in NBA history.
The 21st draft pick has turned into almost like the Mini-Me of Kevin Garnett. Rondo has the same work ethic, attitude and mouth.
Rondo's improved in all areas of his game because he works at it. Last on the list still has to be a consistent outside/mid-range jumper.
He'll get to work on that one, too. And it doesn’t even need to get to three-point range. Once he dials that up, Rondo will be so scary, considering he already puts up triple-double numbers.
He’s fast but has worked hard to improve his outside shot. He came in as a blow-by-guy but his work ethic has allowed him to get better and better. And he’s not even remotely close to his potential.
Two MVP’s and still trucking at 36. He has, for years, been probably the most cardio-fit player in the NBA. He had to be, since his run-and-gun Suns of seven seconds or less demand it.
The Lakers Spaniard might have helped Kobe Bryant return to the mountaintop of NBA basketball, but Kobe has rubbed off on Pau, too.
Gasol has toughened up since the 2008 NBA Finals beat down at the hands of the Boston Celtics. And, if you compare today’s Pau to the early Memphis Grizzlies version, it is night in day in both skill and hard work.
His work ethic continues to reap dividends this year as he stands side-by-side carrying the Laker load in the early part of this season.
Another Mr. Consistency. Just plugs along. Isn’t flashy but such a hard worker. With his current knee issues, he will have to rely on his hard work ethic to remain an All-Star. He probably will.
He already had discipline and work ethic coming into the league, but since a knee injury sidelined him for a significant part of last season, Paul has returned to top form and become even better. He now carries the New Orleans Hornets in all areas and has molded a once-questionable team back into a playoff contender. That all happens because he worked hard to return from injury.
Fans will argue he should be much higher, but the fact is, right now, he hasn’t overachieved with the talent he has been given.
But he has worked hard in offseasons to improve his jumper and it has shown the last few years.
A post-up game would add a new dimension and easier shots to his arsenal. I would love to see him really take his work ethic to the next level.
Wade should rub off on him down in South Beach. The jury is still out on how strong of a work ethic he truly has.
No one questions LeBron's will to win, but his personality lends itself to have fun, and that might just make it appear he doesn’t have the baddest work ethic. Maybe we’re all fooled. Not sure.
There is a reason why Kobe Bryant wanted this former foe on his team to go to battle with. Artest has near the same work ethic and discipline as Kobe. Even Lakers coach Phil Jackson has said recently how consistent and hard working Artest is. Don’t let the off-court image fool you.
Once he got to Utah, he raised his work ethic off the chart. Utah coach Jerry Sloan rubbed off (or demanded) constant effort. Boozer delivered. He will bring that attitude to his new teammates with the Chicago Bulls.
Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan has his avatar on the court in Williams. This super point guard has improved year after year and is a warrior and massive hard worker.
He and Kobe Bryant are tied with how many jumpers they shoot on a daily basis.
Kobe makes 1,000 jumpers a day in the offseason. Ray Allen shows up three hours before games to do the same. You think Allen's jumper is so quick and good from just talent or luck? Think again.
How else do you explain being 36 with five rings and counting? His success is all about work ethic. Not a superstar but a literally a warrior. Totally earns this spot on the list.
One of the league’s most complete players didn’t get this way by accident. Rather, it was countless hours in the gym. One of the best shooting big men, he honed his jumper over and over again. Don't be fooled by his superstar status or his name, Melo doesn't have an ounce of mellow in him. He's all work ethic.
Most physically fit player in the NBA? Defensive Player of the Year honors. Superman.
All-time work ethic. His discipline rubs off and imprints on the other Celtics. Boston's attitude is a complete reflection of Garnett's.
He excels on both offense and defense, all because of the work he puts in at the gym.
With the same trainer as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, D-Wade recovered from knee surgery in 2007 and came back even stronger.
His work ethic has already reached legendary status. He puts his body at risk on every drive but doesn't care. And he's spent the time to get better on the defensive end as well. Wade has no weakness and that is all because of hard work. Period. Forget LeBron, Wade has the baddest work ethic on the Heat.
Mr. Consistency. His work ethic is legendary. Kobe is the benchmark in today's NBA for hard work. His work ethic even rubbed off on his 2008 Olympic teammates, especially Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. Even LeBron James had to shake his head at the extent of work Kobe put in.
An example of the legend is the morning after Kobe scored 55 points in New York a few years back. He was up at 8am at the New York Athletic Club shooting jumpers.
To Kobe, "Excellence is not an act, but a habit."
Want to learn more about Kobe Bryant's legendary work ethic and why he considers himself a "talented overachiever?" Check out the new book, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles for Success- An Insider's Look into Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant's Warrior Life & the Code He Lives By. See www.PatMixon.com for more info and where to sample or buy.