Is LeBron a Cleaner?

Written on July 2, 2015

If you’ve read RELENTLESS, and you’re familiar with the characteristics for Coolers, Closers, and Cleaners, you won’t be surprised that I’m constantly asked which players fit which category.  Among NBA players, I get more questions about LeBron  James than about any other player, probably since I wrote in the original hardcover book (in 2013) that I did not yet consider him a Cleaner.

When the paperback was published in 2014, I added a new introduction, and addressed this topic again. Below is the excerpt about LeBron, which I wrote after the 2012-13 NBA season.  Just keep in mind:  A true Cleaner gets the end result over and over, not just once or even twice.  Staying at the top is harder than climbing there.


On the question of who’s a Cleaner and who’s not: As you will see, I say repeatedly in the book that prior to the 2013 NBA season, LeBron still had something to prove before he could be considered one of the “best ever,” which is what others were beginning to call him. To me, he was still not a Cleaner. He had won a single championship, and I wanted to see him do it again. He didn’t have to take full responsibility for the entire team as a Cleaner does. He was playing  alongside Dwyane, one of the greatest players in the game. Everything had been handed to him since he was a kid in high school; I wanted him to show he had earned it. Everyone was comparing him to the greatest legends of the game–show us you deserve the comparison.

He did.

His physical gifts and superlative talent had very little to do with ultimately making him a Cleaner, because it’s not about skill or talent. It was the fact that he took the pressure from winning the first ring in 2012, used it to drive himself harder for the second ring in 2013, and he carried his team on his back to get it. Complete focus, in the Zone, never letting up until he got the end result.  And as soon as that second championship was his, he immediately said: I’m going to come back a better player. Still not satisfied. That is a Cleaner.

Excerpted from RELENTLESS: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, by Tim S. Grover. All rights reserved. 


DRAFT DAY: The Beginning or the End?

Written on June 24, 2015
When everything you do is about the money, if that’s the end result you crave, what happens when it ends? Because it’s going to end, whether you want to admit it or not. Someone else is going to make more, do more, and be more because you did nothing but sit back and say, “Look at me, I’m rich.” Anyone can start something. Few can finish. You don’t  have to love the work. You just have to crave the end result.
An excerpt from RELENTLESS: From Good to Great to Unstoppable


Finally, the big day. Perfect knot in your $200 tie, Mom has a new dress, the whole family is by your side. Someone suddenly whispers in your ear— this is it. The commissioner is at the podium. “With the eleventh pick . . .” You don’t hear anything else. The first person to hug you is your agent. Congratulations, today is the beginning of the end of your career.

Did you exhale? Did you think, “I’m finally here, set for life”? Or did you think, “I have a lot of work to do”? Most guys, on the day they’re drafted, go out to celebrate. Kobe went to the gym to practice.

Making it to the top is not the same as making it at the top. True for any business; getting the job doesn’t mean you’re keeping the job; winning the client doesn’t mean he’s staying forever. Most people seem to understand that. They get a big opportunity and usually realize they now have to go out and earn that salary, working even harder to prove they deserve it. But if you’re an athlete who just got rich quick, the day you sign that contract can easily be the beginning of the end. You’re already on the pedestal. Your shoe deal is in place. Now you’re not just known by the team you play for, you’re known by your brand affiliation. Instead of spending the summer working on your game, you’re traveling the world pitching your sportswear. Your group of “friends” just grew ten times larger than it was a week ago. And you’re no longer dreaming about what you can do for the game, but what the game can do for you. You took what was handed to you, and that was the end.

I’m using athletes as an example here, but you know it applies to anyone else as well: What have you been handed and what are you willing to earn? At some point, you got a gift: maybe you were blessed with talent, or you inherited the family business, or someone took a chance on you and let you in the door. Then what? Doors swing two ways. Did you shut it on the competition or on yourself?

There’s nothing wrong with receiving a gift; that’s where the challenge begins. Like a lot of people with a crazy dream, I saw an opportunity, worked hard to develop it, and never stopped working to see how far I could take it. Whenever other people in my business want to rip me, they say, “Sure, the guy started with Michael Jordan, it’s not hard to train the best.” If you think it’s “not hard” to take the best and find ways to make him better, you’ve never had to face that challenge. It’s easy to improve on mediocrity, not so easy to improve on excellence.

Dwyane Wade is the perfect example of receiving nothing but talent, and taking it to the top. From a small high school in Chicago not known for its great basketball program, he was barely recruited by any colleges and ended up at Marquette. He didn’t even play his freshman year because of academic reasons. But he knew what it was going to take if he had any chance of making it to the pros, and he fought his way back. In 2003 he was drafted by the Miami Heat, the fifth pick after LeBron James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh. That’s right, of the Big Three, Dwyane Wade was the last one drafted. He arrived in Miami without billboards, mega-million dollar shoe deals, or a crown. He just showed up and played. Three years later, he had his first championship ring. It would be years before anyone drafted ahead of him would do the same.

You cannot understand what it means to be relentless until you have struggled to possess something that’s just out of your reach. Over and over, as soon as you touch it, it moves farther away. But something inside you— that killer instinct— makes you keep going, reaching, until you finally grab it and fight with all your might to keep holding on. Anyone can take what’s sitting right in front of him. Only when you’re truly relentless can you understand the determination to keep pursuing a target that never stops moving.

No question, those who are gifted get to the top faster than anyone else. So what? Is that your excuse for not reaching as high? The challenge is staying there, and most people don’t have the balls to put in the work. If you want to be elite, you have to earn it. Every day, everything you do. Earn it. Prove it. Sacrifice. No shortcuts. You can’t fight the elephants until you’ve wrestled the pigs, messed around in the mud, handled the scrappy, dirty issues that clutter everyday life, so you can be ready for the heavy stuff later. There’s no way you can be prepared to compete and survive at anything if you start with the elephants; no matter how good your instincts are, you’ll always lack the basic knowledge needed to build your arsenal of attack weapons. And when you’re surrounded by those elephants, they’ll know they’re looking at a desperate newcomer.

One summer I had about fifty guys in the gym, a combination of veterans and pre-draft players, including one young man who had never spent a single day wrestling a pig. He had gone to good schools with the top coaches and came from a great family that made sure he had whatever he needed. He worked hard, but everything had been too easy, from scholarships to trophies, and he became a big star without paying a whole lot of dues. He expected to be drafted high and had no idea how things worked in the real world, unprotected by the college environment and supportive followers. He was a marked man from the minute he touched the ball. Every single player in the gym that day had one mission: mess this kid up. Not nice, but competition rarely is. And because he had never been exposed to that level of heat and anger, he completely crumbled. He couldn’t do a thing— out of those fifty guys in the gym that day, he ranked fifty- first— and he learned the hard way that there’s not a magazine cover or a parade that can help you when you’re not prepared.

People who start at the top never understand what they missed at the bottom. The guy who started by sorting the mail, or cleaning the restaurant late at night, or fixing the equipment at the gym, that’s the guy who knows how things get done. After he’s eventually worked his way up through the ranks, he knows how everything works, why it works, what to do when it stops working. That’s the guy who will have longevity and value and impact, because he knows what it took to get to the top. You can’t claim you ran a marathon if you started at the seventeenth mile.

I could tell you so many stories about athletes blessed with incredible physical talent— size, power, pure athletic excellence— who end up playing sports only because that’s where their gifts direct them. They don’t love it or even like it, but that’s where they end up because they’re so physically extraordinary. So they have no motivation to do more because they don’t crave the end result. Every year I’ll talk to a frustrated GM or agent about some young player who’s trashing his entire future because he can’t get this right. Instead of investing time and resources refining his skills and improving his conditioning so he can make it in the league, he’s telling everyone it’s too expensive and exhausting to train all summer and he needs the off- season to relax. Sorry, there’s no off-season when you’re serious about being a winner. But, hey, you can enjoy that off-season permanently when you’re cut by the team.

Do the work. There is no privilege greater than the pressure to excel, and no greater reward than earning the respect and fear of others who can only stand in awe of your results.ted

Excerpted from RELENTLESS: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, by Tim S. Grover. All rights reserved. 




BLOG: Drinking is easy. Winning is not.

Written on June 9, 2015

I’m often asked if I “allow” my players to drink alcohol. I’ll be honest: They don’t need my permission. They’re pro athletes who have to make their own decisions about how to protect their bodies and careers. These are grown adults, and like many adults, they like to relax once in a while; they’re no different from anyone else.  But I draw the line at this: if they’re going to drink, they have to be in control of the alcohol. The alcohol can’t control them.

Do I recommend it? No—the only alcohol I want around athletes is the kind you use on a wound to clean  it. There’s not a single benefit to consuming alcohol, and every reason not to. It has zero nutritional benefits, interferes significantly with the body’s ability to recover, and as I explain in my training book JUMP ATTACK, it’s literally poison. You’ve heard of alcohol poisoning? What does that tell you? In large quantities, it’s a poison. Even in small …..Continue reading BLOG: Drinking is easy. Winning is not.

Why So Many Injuries in the NBA? Be Surprised There Aren’t More

Written on June 6, 2015

By Tm S. Grover

This column appeared first on

Jabari Parker—selected #2 by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2014 NBA draft–made headlines this week for two reasons, neither of them good: 1) He suffered a season-ending knee injury, and 2) he became the seventh of the top eleven draft picks to be seriously injured.

It’s hard to overlook those numbers. Seven of the top eleven already injured? Jabari Parker. Joel Embiid. Aaron Gordon. Marcus Smart. Julius Randle. Noah Vonleh. Doug McDermott. At least four of those probably gone for the rest of the season. Coincidence? Curse? The theories began flying:  The players are more explosive, the game is faster, the competition is greater, too many games, too much travel. And while many asked, Why so many injuries to young superstars?, a better question might be:  Why aren’t there more?

Here’s my theory, and I’m pretty sure I’m correct: These injuries aren’t being caused by the games they’re playing; they’re injured because of the number of practices and games they’ve already played. Hundreds of games, thousands of hours, since they were old enough to pick up a ball.  Peewee. Youth leagues. Summer camps. Travel teams. AAU. High school. College. A relentless schedule of games, practice, travel, and training, sometimes for multiple teams and leagues, with multiple trainers and programs. No time for rest or recovery. No time to play or train for other sports. End result:  The same muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints and are used over and over again, in the same direction, the same angles, the same motions. What piece of machinery doesn’t eventually  give out from repeated use over many years? At some point, the human body just says, “Enough.”

While many parents believe intensified training and competition will accelerate their child’s athletic career, they may actually be shortening it. At the earliest ages, a child’s undeveloped body isn’t prepared for the punishing physical demands of intense athletic activity. Kids are designed to be active, to play, to use their entire bodies…not to work on the same move over and over and over. Yet the competition to be the best—to get above the rim, to throw a complete game, to lift the most weight—has created a generation of young athletes with chronic injuries and pain that they’ll deal with for the rest of their lives.

And while most young athletes finish their careers by the end of high school or maybe college, those elite few who continue into professional sports already have more than a decade of wear and tear on their bodies. So by the time they turn pro, there’s a good chance they’re already dealing with the early stages of injury, some of which will be serious or career-ending. All these rookies with injuries…they’re still kids.

Athletic success for these young pros doesn’t mean training for a good Combine score, it also means developing a healthy, strong, balanced body that can withstand the rigors of sustained elite competition, under the supervision of a professional trainer or coach who understands the different needs and stages of the developing body. Not all kids develop at the same rate; what works for one athlete may not  work for the rest of the team. An ineffective program will give you ineffective results. Everyone is searching for the trendy new workout, but the foundation of an effective training program has always been—and will always be—power and strength.  By the time you’re 16—and usually not before–you have to move the iron. If your program does not address power and strength, through an overload principle, you’re skipping the most fundamental element of training and injury prevention for athletic performance. Yoga and balancing on a ball and laying on a table can only get you so far. Most likely, it can also get you injured if that’s all you’re doing.

Also overlooked: the ability to stop. Everyone wants to go fast and hard, but without the ability to decelerate, what happens? Eventually you crash. Any race car driver can go at top speed, but elite drivers know when to speed up, when to slow down, when to stop. Explosiveness without the ability to decelerate will almost always result in injury. To me, it’s one of the most critical elements of effective training. But how many athletes want to learn to slow down and stop? It’s not sexy. But it’s essential.   If your training program doesn’t teach you to decelerate in a lift or a movement, you’re  only doing half the work.

But the most critical—and overlooked—element of training for longevity is simple: rest and recovery. I’m not talking about laying on the couch playing video games, I’m talking about actively healing your body: stretching, sleeping, foam rolling, compression, ice, nutrition…everything that allows the body to recover and prepare itself for whatever is next. Most coaches don’t work those critical elements into their program because there’s just not enough time. So it’s on you to take responsibility.  It’s not a weakness to take time off for that, it’s a weakness to fear that time off equals failure. You can’t push-push-push without also pulling back. For every action there is a reaction.  Without rest, there can be no recovery. Without recovery, there is zero chance for long-term success.

Parents:  By living your athletic dreams through your kids, you may be damaging theirs. NBA coaches rest their players. Shouldn’t you?  Just as we teach kids to have good study habits, we also have a responsibility to teach them good training habits. Not just working hard, but working smart.  You don’t achieve that by training more and more to beat out the other kids, you achieve it by allowing kids to rest and recover the mind and body, so they can continue to develop and come back stronger and smarter. Instead of pushing them harder, pull them in and let them physically exhale. What happens outside the gym and training facility is as important to long-term success as what happens inside.



Don’t Settle for Legendary

Written on April 17, 2015

Tim Grover Speaking Appearance
Investors Group Financial Services, Toronto
Thanks to CreativeRebellion for production.

The Business of ‘Healthy’ Eating: SI Column

Written on November 25, 2014

I hear this over and over from athletes of all levels, from the pros to the playground:

“I can’t lose weight.”

To which I always want to say: You can’t, or you won’t?

It usually goes like this:

About a month before training camp, a player comes into my office, slumps down into a chair, shakes his head in frustration and says, “I can’t drop this weight.”

No kidding. He’s easily 30 lbs from where he needs to be.

“I don’t get it,” he continues. “I’m working out every day, no drinking, eating healthy…”

Stop. The magic words: Eating healthy.

Tell me what you’re eating.

“Oh, you know, HEALTHY. Start my day with a huge smoothie…”

Here we go. What’s in the smoothie?

“Healthy stuff,” he says proudly. “Orange juice, pineapple, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, granola, yogurt…very healthy.”

Got it. Good news: If you’re consuming that much sugar every morning, be grateful you’re only 30 pounds overweight. It could be a lot worse, and probably will be, because there are more sugars in that smoothie than the average person should consume in an entire day.

What’s he burning for energy all day? The sugar. What stays on his body, safe and secure? The fat.

That, my friends, is the business—or maybe the b.s.—of “healthy eating.”

We’ve been so conditioned to focus on calories and fat that we overlook the greatest nutritional poison: sugar. And it’s hiding in plain view, in countless foods and beverages that are “good for you.”

Fruit juices. Smoothies. Wraps. Trail mix. Diet sodas. They sound so good. So “healthy.” Until you realize you’re gaining weight and you have no idea why. The ads talk about “healthy alternatives,” but what’s the alternative of healthy? Unhealthy?

Read more at The Business of Healthy Eating


Written on November 14, 2014

Let’s be honest, very few people go into the gym determined to develop really great ankles. Shoulders, back, chest, legs…the glamour muscles get all the work. Ankles are buried in shoes and socks, they don’t show. No one watches the game thinking, “Man, I gotta get some ankles like that.”

When do you notice an ankle?

When it’s injured.

We’ve already noticed a lot of ankles in the NBA recently:

  • Derrick Rose: ankle injury, both ankles.
  • Ricky Rubio: ankle injury.
  • Marcus Smart: ankle injury.
  • Nerlens Noel: ankle injury.
  • Ty Lawson: ankle injury.

And we’re not even ten games into the season.

Ankle injuries are often preventable with the right training, predictable with the wrong training.   I can’t accept an ankle injury being written off as “one of those things.” One of what things? Something caused that injury, and it’s up to each individual athlete to do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If you’re an athlete in any sport and your program doesn’t include exercises for your ankles, it’s not a complete program. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, how high you jump, how fast you run…if you’re injured, you’re not available to play. And the #1 responsibility of any athlete is to be available to play. There’s no Combine score for ankles, but when they’re injured, you get an automatic 5-10….meaning the number of games a sprain will cost you, if you’re lucky. You could miss more.