Basketball Success: GENES are the key


A two part article featured in two issues

Jonathan Niednagel is a sport scientist, who has pioneered one of the most advanced sports evaluation and improvement technology Brain Typing ( He consults for pro teams and athletes in United States, especially in the NBA, NFL, and MLB. He is the author of the book “Your Key To Sports Success”, where he identifies and describes the Brain Types to over 20 sports.

Have you ever considered how and why perennial NBA all-stars John Stockton and Larry Bird excelled? (For those who may not know, Stockton is the NBA’s all-time assist leader and Bird is arguably the best player in NBA history.) What is it about Dirk Nowitski that has enabled this 7-footer to be so agile and a deft shooter, cinching his NBA stardom? Let’s begin with the Bird and Stockton comparisons.

Neither superstar was particularly athletic, nor could they jump or run by NBA standards. Bird was a big, slow, white guy who could barely get off the floor. In the world’s supreme basketball league, where athleticism usually accompanies the greatest players, how did these two overwhelmingly defy the odds?

Let’s bring it closer to home by comparing the two former all-stars to you. Yes, you. What is your height? Perhaps you are close to John Stockton’s size, around 6 feet, or less likely, you are closer to the 6’9″ height of Larry Bird. Either way, do you believe it would have been possible for you to achieve their NBA success, given a similar upbringing and background? Or, could any man on the planet, with similar size to either Stockton or Bird have done the same? Just what made Larry and John so special? How could they possibly have achieved their greatness?

Do you realize there are many basketball players around the world who can dribble, rebound, and even shoot better than these two guys once did, and yet do not make it to the professional level? How does this make sense?

Let’s consider some matters that virtually all of us should know about Stockton and Bird. These two obviously developed a keen interest in hoops. Early in life, they put in lengthy practice and received some decent instruction, and watched others play. Yet, so did a lot of the rest of us, but we never attained the basketball expertise of these two.

Perhaps you are now guessing that maybe they were born with some paranormal superiority. Maybe Stockton was blessed with x-ray vision, along the lines of Superman. And maybe Bird inherited some of this too, along with extraordinary giftedness in hand-eye coordination, enabling him to adeptly shoot, pass, and handle the ball. If Einstein was endowed with off-the- court genius, then just maybe Stockton and Bird inherited on-court brilliance.

As we head further into the 21st century, is there any rational explanation for why athletes perform as they do, especially those who don’t seem to have all the physical tools or special athleticism? For nearly thirty years, I have been painstakingly attempting to answer this confounding but highly intriguing question. Along the way, I’ve also researched why people do what they do off the court (or field) of play.

By the latter half of the 1970s, I knew I was onto something significant. I had already begun to witness a correlation between certain personality traits in people and specific physical skills. The renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung had originally identified personality characteristics such as extraversion and introversion, but he made no connection between them and motor skills. Simply stated, I found that certain types of people sharing similar mental characteristics with others also shared similar physical and even spatial abilities. Initially it seemed far too improbable and unorthodox for such a connection, but I skeptically continued my research, part of which was coaching more than fifty youth teams over a decade. What this effort revealed to me was that each child (and adult) must be born with some sort of individual and specific genetic bent, actually regulating both mental and motor skills, and that these designs were limited in number! This empirical pattern also demonstrated that certain groups of people shared similar inborn mental and physical aspects with others, independent of race, religion or ethnicity. In other words, people in different parts of the neighborhood, city, or even world for that matter, could share the same genetic design regulating specific mental and motor skills.

Now that I’ve introduced this radical finding, please contemplate this in your mind for just one minute. I’m not suggesting you believe the correlation I just made, but only that you grasp what I am claiming. If it were true, what would be the implications of such a genetic phenomenon?

If we chose to consider off-the-court (or field) implications, such as those dealing with family members or work associates, or educating children, or even understanding why government leaders do what they do, we could fill many pages. For the sake of this article, we’ll limit our focus to sports, especially basketball.

Consider this possibility. If there were 16 different inborn designs (with inherent and specific mental, motor and spatial skills) found in athletes around the globe, and each athlete had only one of these designs, how would this impact sports? To save you some time and/or mental energy, perhaps, I will answer my question. I slowly discovered over many years of study that particular inborn designs (of the possible 16) were best at specific sports and even at certain positions within each sport!

It wasn’t long before I realized that certain DNA-constructed designs (which I describe as Brain Types) excelled at golf, others in tennis, soccer, auto or motor-cycle racing, snow skiing, basketball, and so on, whereas other Brain Types had neither the mental nor physical abilities to master various of these sports, regardless of their physical size or even level of athleticism. Can you fathom that?

In addition, certain inborn Types were best at specific positions or functions within their sport, such as serving in tennis, putting in golf, batting in baseball, and passing, shooting, or ball handling in basketball. Some Brain Types were much better than others at point guard. My initial research led me to believe that each person was born with a specific design that regulated both mental and physical skills, and that these innate traits would cause him or her to naturally succeed, or struggle, in life’s various ventures, on and off the court.

After realizing that these inborn proclivities were not a result of the water we drank or the upbringing (or coaching) we had, I surmised in the early 1980s that these innate wirings had to be genetically based. One needn’t be a rocket scientist for such as deduction. Genome research was quite primitive in those days so exploring this possibility had to wait. Yet brain research and neuroscience were dramatically on the upswing, with high-tech PET scans and other metabolic mappings revealing cerebral functions never before understood. Thus, I began exploring how the brain regulates our cognitive, motor and visual processes, and, during this past decade, the influence of genetics on these physiological functions. The massive Human Genome Project’s first major hurdle was finally accomplished in 2003, identifying roughly 30,000 human genes. The race is now on for identifying which human functions these individual genes actually regulate.

The fields of neuroscience and genetics are finally shedding abundant light on how and why the body (including brain) operates as it does. For the first time in human history, long-awaited answers are forthcoming. We are finally leaving the Dark Ages of human understanding. Over the past decades, I have attempted to make a connection between typology, one small dimension of psychology, a soft science, and the fields of genetics and neuroscience, which are soundly entrenched among the hard sciences. Marvelously, it is all coming together.

Relating all this to athletics, I began to share my surprising and helpful findings with a few professional athletes in the late 1970s. It wasn’t long before they began employing them in their respective sports and telling others.

So what does all this mean to you? Whether a team owner, general manager, coach, parent, or athlete, you can now learn to identify and optimally develop these inborn designs or Brain Type in yourself and others. Assuredly, understanding inborn characteristics mentally, physically, and spatially, is the future direction of sports. It provides an unparalleled advantage.

Brain Typing is relevant for every dimension of life, including business and family. As long as one is attempting to understand, persuade, or communicate with others, there is no better way.

Before I tell you the key to success for Bird and Stockton, let’s consider only one aspect of the 16 inborn designs. Four of these makeups specialize in the top region of the brain’ primary motor cortex, which masters gross motor skills, the large muscle groups (Magic Johnson is in this category). Another four Brain Types (including Michael Jordan) excel in the adjacent descending area of the motor cortex, regulating hand-eye coordination. The next four genetic Types (including Tiger Woods and Dirk Nowitski) have the potential to expertly coordinate both large and small muscles. The remaining four Brain Types are innatelyleast gifted in the motor cortex, especially regulating the gross motors, yet they are the most proficient with the strategic skills of the cerebral cortex (including hockey goalie Dominik Hasek). This knowledge of the various cerebral distinctions is helpful in beginning to comprehend why the different athletes perform as they do.

Brain Typing not only can help an aspiring athlete choose the best sport(s) for him and her, but it can help to develop one’s game in an optimal manner. The key to sports success is practicing and improving based upon one’s personal makeup, mentally and physically. Brain Typing enables the athlete to know exactly how he or she is wired and how to perform best under the greatest of pressures.

Now to Bird and Jordan. Their inborn design is described by one of Brain Typing’s 16 acronyms: BEIR. “B” represents a genetic predisposition for the Back of the brain where deep concentration and intensity reside as opposed to the front’s active and energetic state, which minimizes contemplation. “E” stands for Empirical, relying on sight and observation instead of concepts and theory. “I” signifies the Inanimate world which is more interested in logic, systems, and things than relating to people, pursuing harmony, or trusting feelings. Lastly, “R” equates to the Right brain, the hemisphere adept at peripheral vision and smooth, adaptable motor movements in contrast to the left hemisphere that specializes in tunnel vision and more mechanical, preplanned motor movements. Athletes born with the BEIR Brain Type can develop superior hand-eye coordination and athletic skills. This design is debatably the superior athlete in most sports.

Though each person’s upbringing and environment (past and current) influence his unique personality, the vast majority of BEIRs are more reserved and quiet due to their genetic imprint. They also have the potential to develop the consummate spatial logic, as well as competitive intensity of all 16 Brain Types. (Infamous boxer Mike Tyson also possesses the BEIR wiring.)

Larry Bird and John Stockton would never have achieved their NBA greatness had they not inherited the BEIR wiring. Yes, some other Brain Types can achieve pro basketball stardom, but the BEIR has proven to be the best. A few other recent greats of this design include Michael Jordan, Tracy McGrady, Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Kidd, and Allen Iverson.

Computer technology has ushered us into the 21st century, but genetic analysis is soon to reshape the world in which we live, even in sports. Until Brain Typing genetic identification is finalized, those I’ve trained and I will continue to rely on the empirical approach, carefully observing athletes and people and their innate mental and motor tendencies. Though it is presently possible to identify the different designs in even young children, the majority of my time is devoted to working with adults.

How did mankind develop these indelible and measurable designs, or Brain Types? After numerous years of consideration, my most educated guess suggests a Master Designer. It is my hope in the years ahead to help those around the globe to better understand these unique designs and how to get the most out of life in light of this enlightening and liberating knowledge.

Back To Media