Guarding the best player on the planet, particularly in the playoffs, and especially by a rookie, can rattle anyone's nerves. Jaylen Brown had that task, guarding Lebron James, in the playoffs last season. Was he nervous? Yes, what rookie wouldn't be? The nervousness would get to the point, as it had in the past, that Jaylen would feel he might vomit. Well, first of all, he is in good company. I remember this very well as a Celts fan in the 1960's. Here is The Sportster's J. Francis Wolfe's take on it:
There’s an argument to be made for Bill Russell as basketball’s greatest player ever, and there is certainly no doubt that he is the game’s greatest winner. He may also be the game’s greatest puker, as the Hall of Fame center was known to vomit before all of the team’s most important games. According to legend, Russell was so intense that he would work himself into such a frenzy that there was no way he could avoid throwing up.
According to a biography written by Murry Nelson, Russell’s puking became such an expected event that Celtics coach Red Auerbach would not let the team onto the floor until Russell had vomited, as Auerbach considered this something of a good luck charm. It got to a point where Russell’s teammates welcomed the sound of the vomiting, as John Havlicek once said, “It means he’s keyed up for the game, and around the locker room we grin and say, ‘Man, we’re going to be alright tonight.’”
Looks like Bill's beloved coach and teammates didn't want the vomiting to stop. Always great to have that kind of support, isn't it? Jaylen certainly wanted the nervousness to end, and he chose to write and produce a rap song entitled Building Blocks (via Sport Techie's Avery Yang):
Game day and it’s time to focus in. … Is you ready, I can feel you breathing heavy, keep it steady. I just gotta pretend that I got it all together when I don’t. Probably wanna throw up but I won’t … just breathe. —Jaylen Brown, Building Blocks
Breathe in, breathe out, listen to my voice breathe in, breathe out. (Expletive) you ain’t got a choice, breathe in, breathe out. I can feel my hands sweaty, I can feel my legs heavy. —Jaylen Brown, Building Blocks
Jaylen listened to his rap song several times prior to all five playoff games against Lebron and the Cavs. I tried to visualize Bill Russell doing the same, but it didn't work. The rap part didn't fit. Beginning at the age of 15, Brown has worked with mental skills coach, Graham Betchart(per Sport Techie's Avery Yang):
Brown’s pregame routine was inspired by the teachings of his mental skills coach, Graham Betchart, who offers guides on how to circumvent the psychological obstacles that can hinder an athlete’s performance through the app, Lucid, which promotes a new, on-the-go vision on how to get nervous athletes in the right frame of mind before a big game.
We know there is a good chance of it happening again this season, Jaylen guarding Lebron in the Eastern Conference Finals. The King will be one year older, but that never seems to make a difference, does it. Our senior Jay-Team member will have one more year of experience under his belt. That could very well make a difference.
I watch Jaylen's eyes and facial expressions (or lack of) when he is guarding an opponent. His mind never stops. The chess whiz in him comes out, but at a much more rapid pace. My guess is that he will continue with his pre-game, rap routine or devise a replacement. My belief is that he will think less and react more out of instinct for the game. And I bet he will be a bit more relaxed.
Picture Bill Russell listening to a pre-recorded song or inspirational quotes on his headphones to alleviate the jitters and nausea. Red Auerbach and the other players would have hidden the headphones. Let the vomiting begin, and let's head to the court. Jaylen's teammates had better not do that. They already filled his truck with greasy popcorn, and he is no longer a rookie. Let the rap commence, and let's head to the court.
Top photo via Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Bottom photo via John G. Zimmerman/SI