T-Wolves Playing With Their Heads
Sports Illustrated
June 24th, 2002

As the Minnesota Timberwolves consider how to use their second-round pick, they will seek the advice of Jonathan Niednagel, a.k.a. “the brain doctor.” At the recent NBA predraft camp in Chicago, Niednagel (who is not really a doctor) could be found sitting under a basket, studying the motor skills and facial expressions of 60 potential draft picks. He says there are physical traits, including the way a player talks, that reveal how his brain is “wired,” and that wiring is what separates the All-Stars from the underachievers.

illustrated2Niednagel, who heads the Brain Type Institute of Nottinghill, Mo., and has been studying brain types for 30 years, is one of the country’s more unusual – and popular – judges of athletic talent. On June 4 he helped the Cincinnati Reds choose Chistopher Gruler with the No. 3 pick in the baseball draft. As a consultant for the San Diego Chargers in 1998 he told club officials that Peyton Manning had the ideal brain type for an NFL quarterback – sharing the same inborn traits as Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath and Brett Favre – but that Ryan Leaf’s makeup wouldn’t allow him to perform under pressure. The Chargers drafted Leaf with the No. 2 pick anyway, only to release him two years later.

“If I was ever a general manager in any sport, he would be my first hire, because he would give me an advantage that no one else would have,” says former Suns coach Danny Ainge, who has known Niednagel for 12 years and introduced him to Timberwolves president Kevin McHale. “I don’t think anybody in the NBA knew how good Mike Bibby was until the playoffs this year, but I remember Jon telling me that Bibby was capable of that performance while he was still in college.”

According to Niednagel, Bibby is an ISTP – the letters stand for introversion, sensing, thinking, perceiving – which puts Bibby in the same group as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Jerry West and John Stockton.

Is there a player with Jordan’s mentality lurking in this year’s draft? McHale is the only G.M. who will know for sure.

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