Former Duke basketball player and current ESPN college hoops analyst Bilas surveys an all-star cast of athletes and coaches to define the true meaning of toughness—and suggest how it can be developed.
In a sports landscape increasingly dominated by chest-thumping, trash-talking prima donnas, the word “tough” is casually and repeatedly thrown around by commentators and athletes alike. The author, however, thinks that somewhere along the way, people lost sight of the proper meaning of the word. After penning a well-received, basketball-focused article on the topic for ESPN.com, he set out to rectify the problem on a wider scale. Through a series of anecdotes and insights shared by the likes of Bilas’ own college coach, Mike Krzyzewski, as well as other luminaries, including Bob Knight, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, Jon Gruden, Grant Hill, and a number of Bilas’ former teammates (including Mark Alarie and Tommy Amaker), the author offers his own conception of toughness. Rather than being defined by tough talk and intimidation, it includes characteristics ranging from courage and persistence to commitment and resilience—and not just on the court. Through the use of stories from his own upbringing, college and pro playing days, career as a lawyer and experience as a broadcaster, Bilas provides personal examples of the lessons imparted by the coaches and players he quotes throughout the narrative. His clichéd reverence for his parents is predictable (though still touching), and many of the lessons imparted by the book’s interview subjects are redundant. Still, for the less cynical, there is wisdom to be gleaned from Bilas, and by the end, it’s easy to believe that the only obstacle to improved toughness is one’s own unwillingness to work at it.
A better fit for the article format, but there’s enough here to toughen up even the softest players.