When you follow the NBA closely, sometimes there are stupid little stories that stick with you. For me, one of those will always be the time that Jimmy Butler told a reporter that he literally chopped the rearview mirrors off of his car because he is so committed to not thinking about the past.
What does that little act of reckless endangerment have to do with Marc Gasol, you ask? Well, I bring it up because the Lakers’ starting center just gave us another great moment in NBA mirror history, when he told Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register about the time then-Grizzlies head coach (and now-Lakers assistant), Lionel Hollins, taught Gasol to look in the mirror after every loss, something Gasol says he still does to this day:
Taking over a miserable 11-32 Memphis team midseason in 2009, Hollins told his new roster that after losses and disappointments, they had to look at themselves before casting blame around the room. Then he told the players to look inside their lockers: An assistant had given them each compact mirrors, purchased from a local pharmacy, to remind them to hold themselves accountable first.
The tactic registers as a little on-the-nose – a cynic might think it tacky. But one of those players in that locker room was Marc Gasol, then a rookie scrapping for some credibility outside of his brother’s shadow. The lesson stayed with him ever since, even if the mirror hasn’t.
“To this day I do this exercise,” Gasol said in a recent interview with Southern California News Group. “It’s kind of in your DNA and you don’t even have to think about it: It taught me to never blame somebody else for what happens in the game.”
This is such a hard-ass coach move that it’s hard to believe it is from a real NBA coach and not the rejected script for a potential “Coach Carter” sequel where he goes to whip a team of underachieving professionals into shape. Byron Scott has to be mad he didn’t think of this for the Lakers’ lottery years. He would have bought D’Angelo Russell like 10 mirrors.
In all seriousness, though, while this is obviously an extreme example, Gasol sticking with this practice so many years later is illustrative of how he views basketball. Whether he was the best player on the Grit and Grind Grizzlies, or more of a role player on the Lakers, he still sees this as a team game. No matter how a player plays individually, if a team loses, everyone on the team contributed to that result. It’s an intense way to view things, but in a team sport, probably not an incorrect one.
And hey, if Gasol wants to have some extreme, overly literal motivating practices, at least this one doesn’t risk an auto accident. Maybe Butler can take notes. Hopefully before the next time he gets in whatever car he removed the rearview mirrors from.