Height/Weight: 6’7”, 235 lbs
Current team: Boston Celtics
Years in NBA: 10
Previous teams: Boston
While in Boston working the 2009 Paul Pierce Nike Skills Academy I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with veteran NBA All Star Paul Pierce and talk about his training experiences and off season workouts. Paul was amazing throughout the camp and was very involved in the instruction. He jumped in several drills and showed the elite high school and college players exactly what it takes to play in the NBA.
Prior to stepping aside for our one on one interview, Paul spoke briefly to the entire camp. He gave them the background on his amazing journey from Inglewood, California (where he grew up) to winning an NBA championship in 2008 with the Boston Celtics. Please note, I have paraphrased his talk and his answers, these are not verbatim (but pretty close). I didn’t use a recorder; I merely scribbled notes as fast I could when writing everything down!
Here is an overview of his talk:
I grew up in California and had two very athletic older brothers. Both got college scholarships, so I always felt I needed to follow in their footsteps. I started playing basketball when I was 11 years old. I didn’t really hit the national scene until my junior year in high school. Heck, I actually got cut from varsity my sophomore year. The coach wanted me to play JV, but I begged and convinced him to let me practice with the varsity, even if that meant riding the bench. That turned out to be a good decision because I got so much better that year by working on my game every single day. By my senior year I was a McDonalds All American in one of the best classes ever; Chauncy Billups, Vince Carter, and Kevin Garnett where all in my class. I decided to go to Kansas to get away from California so I could focus solely on my school work and on playing ball. The transition to college was really tough, but after my freshman year I knew I had what it took to play in the NBA. After two All American caliber seasons at Kansas (sophomore and junior years), I entered the NBA draft. I was expected to go in the top 5, but didn’t get drafted until 10th. I was very disappointed. I knew I should have been happy to be a lottery pick, but for some reason I was angry that 9 teams passed on me. That lit my fire and gave me so much motivation. I was so determined to prove I was the best player in that draft class. I used to get up shots at midnight and would call out the names of the 9 guys drafted a head of me every time I made a shot. I was on a mission. Looking back, I am proud of what I have accomplished, but am not at all content. I have so much more to prove and feel like I have another 4-5 years left in me. My life and my career have had several ups and downs so I don’t take anything for granted. I try to stay humble and keep working hard, every day. I still feel like I have something to prove. That is what drives me. I am a leader on the Celtics and a leader’s job is to make everyone else better and to “show up” and “be on” every day. That’s what I try to do.
Q: At what age (or grade) did you first start lifting weights?
A: I didn’t lift in high school. I was actually scared it would stunt my growth and mess up my jump shot. Obviously now I know that is not the case, but back then, that’s what people told me. Lifting weights was definitely not encouraged. Once I got to Kansas I was put on a very structured strength training program and I got really strong. Really strong. I was benching like 300 lbs and was really swole!
Q: How do you feel like it helped your game?
A: Getting strong really helped me be more physical and compete at the college level. I was always pretty thick; I weighed 215 lbs in high school, 225 lbs in college, and play now at about 235 lbs. I have never been the quickest guy, or the most explosive, but I know how to use my strength and my body.
Q: Why do you think strength & conditioning for basketball players is important?
A: It is so important to take great care of your body, especially in the NBA because of such a long, grueling season. Being on a program will keep everything tight and keep you strong and in shape.
Q: What does your off season training program consist of now?
A: I am just as in to my off season training program now as I was 10 years ago. I take my off season work very serious. It kills me to see guys new to the league, or who have only been in the league for a couple of years, not putting in the work. They are selling themselves short. Like I said earlier, I am still very motivated and still feel like I have a lot to prove. I get up every day around 6:30am to make sure my workout starts at 7am sharp. I am usually finished by 9:30am. I like knocking my workout out first thing so I have the rest of the day free. I usually take about 2 weeks off after the season and then get back to work. The best way to get in great shape is to not get out of shape! I lift, run on the beach in Cali, and do some plyos. Plus get shots up every day. I have several of my boys I work out with and who help push me.
Q: What is the biggest difference between playing in college and in the NBA?
A: The NBA game is so much faster, with better athletes and a 24 second clock keeps things moving. However, I have learned how to play “slow” and still be very effective. It’s all about knowing how to use your body. I have also learned how important it is to have a routine, especially on game day. We play 3 or 4 games a week. Having a routine in your preparation helps you be more consistent. Consistency is a key to being successful. You gotta have a routine!
I would like to extend a giant thank you to Paul for taking the time to speak with me as well as for taking the time to kick such wisdom to the campers. Paul is truly a class act.
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