espnmagReading The Mind Of A Champion

By Ric Bucher, ESPN Magazine, 5/29/2003

With the title on the line, the question is this: Do you want two-time MVP Tim Duncan shooting a 10-foot jump hook over one defender or Jason Kidd driving to the baseline for a fadeaway jumper over two? The statistical averages and basic laws of probability, of course, point to Duncan. But numbers don’t always tell the whole story when it comes to last-second, weight-of-the-world situations.

For some guys the pressure is a muscle-building jolt that propels them to outperform their resume. For others, it’s a lung-collapsing gut punch that turns even routine tasks into a high-wire walk over a shark-infested pool.

If you could only know what Kidd and Duncan felt and thought and saw in the crucible, it would make your choice easier, wouldn’t it?

Well, Jonathan Niednagel, a.k.a. the Brain Doctor, says he does know. Sometimes, he claims, he can predict an athlete’s future just by watching him walk and talk. Granted, that’s a little hard to believe — until he details your strengths and weaknesses soon after meeting you. At least, that’s how he’s won over players like Kerry Kittles and Kidd himself, not to mention front-office types like Danny Ainge and Kiki Vandeweghe. “I don’t understand the science behind it,” says Ainge, the new Celtics director of operations, who wants to add Niednagel to his staff. “I just know it works. He can tell you things nobody else can.”


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