LeBron leads the way with 3 ESPY Awards

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LeBron leads the way with 3 ESPY Awards

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- LeBron James collected the biggest trophy of his career when the Miami Heat won the NBA championship. That title run netted him some more hardware at the ESPY Awards. James won a leading three individual trophies, including male athlete of the year, and shared in another at the 20th annual show celebrating the year's best athletes and moments in sports. He wasn't on hand to accept because he was in Las Vegas with the rest of the U.S. national team preparing for the upcoming London Olympics. James outpolled tennis player Novak Djokovic, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in fan voting for male athlete honors. He also won in the championship performance and NBA player categories, while sharing in the best team award, with Juwan Howard and Mike Miller accepting for the Heat. "He's had a magnifying glass on him since he was 17 years old and I think he's handled himself really, really well," Miller said of James backstage. "Unbelievable teammate, unbelievable father, so those are the most important things. He's just a likeable guy. He's a great basketball player to boot." Baylor basketball star Brittney Griner won two trophies, including female athlete of the year in which she beat out French Open champion Maria Sharapova, skier Lindsay Vonn and soccer player Abby Wambach. Quarterback Robert Griffin III, who like Griner starred at Baylor, won male college athlete honors. Griner took female college athlete honors for leading the Lady Bears to a 40-0 record and the NCAA championship. "Just excited. I wouldn't be here without Title IX," Griner said backstage. "Everything is just coming together, and it feels good to be here." Los Angeles was well represented, with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick winning best NHL player after helping the franchise win its first Stanley Cup title, and Galaxy star David Beckham earning best MLS player honors. The Kings won for best upset after their run to the NHL championship as an eighth seed in the Western Conference. Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton won as best MLB player, while Rodgers earned best NFL player honors. Mario Gutierrez, who rode I'll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, won as best jockey. Skateboarder and snowboarder Shaun White won his fifth consecutive ESPY for male action sports athlete. Host Rob Riggle of "The Daily Show" and "The Hangover" fame zinged some of the famous faces in his opening monologue. He touched on the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal in singling out quarterback Drew Brees, who won for record-breaking performance after shattering Dan Marino's single-season passing mark. Brees and the Saints are haggling over his contract with a Monday deadline looming. "If only the Saints had some sort of fund that they could pull extra cash from to reward people for doing things on the field," Riggle cracked as Brees looked down from his seat, and the crowd roared. Riggle teased Anthony Davis of Kentucky, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft known for his connected eyebrows. Davis recently trademarked the phrases "Fear the Brow" and "Raise the Brow." "It looks like two caterpillars just making sweet love on your forehead," Riggle told Davis. "Is that like one of those Mr. Potato Head eyebrows you just take on and off?" Riggle skewered Jeremy Lin and the "Linsanity" he created playing for the New York Knicks, which won Lin the trophy for breakthrough athlete. "What a heartwarming story," he said. "It's so refreshing to see a young Asian kid graduate from Harvard, move to New York and make a ton of money." The Arthur Ashe Courage award went to former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, who revealed her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's last August. She retired in April after 38 years. Summitt's son, Tyler, escorted her to the stage to accept the trophy from Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who went to college at Tennessee, while the Nokia Theatre crowd stood applauding. "I am deeply touched," she told the crowd. "I'm going to keep on keepin' on I promise you that." The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance was given to former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand. He is recovering from a spinal cord injury that ended his playing career. "My dream is to get back on my feet and walk again," he told the audience after a standing ovation. "You can best believe that I'll never give up."

OFFSEASON

Mental training is the secret to Jaylen Brown's development

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Mental training is the secret to Jaylen Brown's development

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown’s athleticism was among the many reasons the Boston Celtics selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in last month’s NBA draft. But even before he became a Green Teamer, Brown’s aspirations were much greater than being a high draft pick.

“I want to be a top five player in the league,” Brown said at his introductory press conference last month. It’s a lofty goal for sure; the kind that requires more than just talent. And that’s where Graham Betchart – Brown’s mental skills coach - comes in.

Betchart’s work as a mental skills coach has been on full display as one of the keys to Brown being among the standout performers during summer leagues in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, respectively. 

The 6-foot-7 rookie was named to the Las Vegas Summer League’s second team, one of just three lottery picks (top-14) in last month’s NBA draft (Ben Simmons of LSU and Thon Maker of Milwaukee) named to the first (Simmons) or second (Maker) team along with Brown.

In addition to Brown, Betchart has worked with each of the last three first overall picks – Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns and most recently, Simmons. Betchart said he also worked with current Celtic guard Marcus Smart when he was at Oklahoma State.

While each player has their own specific program, there are some common threads that bind all of his clients.

“The big thing I want them to focus on is what in their control,” Betchart told CSNNE.com from New York City where he was meeting with the New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has been one of the more outspoken athletes when it comes to mental health-related issues. “And so for a lot of these guys, they’re so good in high school and even college, they can focus on results and still produce results. As you get older, you realize that results are totally out of your control. And so my focus is getting them to focus on what’s in their control, and learning how to do it consistently; how to create a pattern, a consistent mindset.”

We saw that from Brown this summer with the Celtics’ summer league teams. He averaged 16.0 points and 6.2 rebounds but did so shooting a not-so-great 30.7 percent from the field and was even worst (27.2 percent) on 3s.

However, he did manage to get to the free throw line 10.2 times per game, which is surprising when you consider whistles typically aren’t blown as often in the summer than they are in a regular season game. And just to put his free throw average in perspective, only two players – Houston’s James Harden and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins – averaged more than 10 free throw attempts per game last season.

Brown has said on more than one occasion that getting to the free throw line often has to be one of his strengths in the NBA. Based on what he did this past summer, there’s no question it’s something he has indeed made a priority.

And the fact that Brown was able to do it consistently this summer falls in line with one of the core concepts that Betchart preaches to his clients.

“To me the hardest thing in sports is to be consistent,” said Betchart, who is now the director of mental training for San Francisco-based Lucid, a mental training app for athletes. “Anyone can just once in a while show up and have a great game. It really starts with having a consistent mindset based on what you can control. They have to be in the moment no matter what’s going on. It could be really bad, it could be really good.”

And when it’s over, players can’t dwell in the mistakes of the past.

“We make a mistake and get hung up sometimes,” Betchart said. “But if you can move on to that next play and train your focus to do that, it’s really hard to stop you if you don’t stop yourself.”

Instead, those mistakes actually form the foundation for future success.

In the case of Brown, one of the biggest knocks on him coming into the NBA was his shooting touch being anything but consistent.

“It’s the growth mindset,” Betchart said. “If you are going to master shooting, you’re gonna have to miss a lot of shots. It’s kind of like learning to walk. When you were learning to walk, you don’t remember but you fell down all the time. You didn’t say, ‘Oh I’m not going to walk. I’m just going to stay on the ground.’ You just picked yourself up and eventually you learned. When you get to the professional level, your game is analyzed on where it is right now. And right now, he’s 19 years old. There’s no way he’s going to be as good a shooter now as he’ll be at 23 and 25. And so if he embraces the growth mindset and just continues to focus on his process, which is taking the shot, being assertive, taking your shot, it’s all going to work out. I know this to be factually true.”

Another one of Betchart’s clients is Orlando forward Aaron Gordon, who came into the NBA as one of the worst free throw shooters in college basketball. In his lone season at Arizona, Gordon shot just 42.2 percent from the free throw line.

In his two NBA seasons, the 6-foot-9 forward has shot 68.1 percent.

“People were laughing at (Gordon’s free throw shooting) sarcastically and now as a pro he’s shooting (almost) 70 percent,” Betchart said. “It was all based on a growth mindset; just allowing yourself to fail and really, you’re not failing. You’re learning how to shoot. We introduce a concept called Victory goes to the Vulnerable. You’re going to be vulnerable sometimes. People are going to talk about your shot. That’s OK. We let people have their opinions. We don’t try and stop them. It’s all part of the process.”

Ah yes, the process.

If you listen to Brown, he has said on more than one occasion whether he played well or not, that all that he’s going through now is part of a process that will eventually make him a better person and a better player for the Celtics.

Part of that process is utilizing the various mental techniques and teachings of Betchart, who has known Brown since he was 15 years old and had a chance to spend a considerable amount of face-to-face time with him this past year when Brown was at Cal.

Most of what Betchart talks about has a strong basketball teaching component to it. But at the end of the day, there’s a lot more going on.

“Everybody starts to realize these are life skills,” Betchart said. “It’s tough to separate basketball from life. You’re going to be who you are on the court, off the court. These skills, learning to control what you can control, being present, moving on after mistakes, this is what we leave in life as well, learning how to be vulnerable in life and do those things. It naturally gravitates towards life and … what’s going on in life. It’s a natural progression. They’re human beings who choose to play a sport for a living. They are not basketball players; Basketball is what they do.”

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN