The Person and the Behaviour:
Kobe Bryant is one of the most successful NBA basketball players of all time, playing, his entire 20 year Basketball career for the Los Angeles Lakers. Career highlights for Bryant include but are not subject to 5x NBA Champion,18x NBA All-star, 4x NBA All-star game MVP, and 2x Olympic Gold Medallist. Coaches, teammates, psychologists and even Bryant himself thank his pre-game routine for the successes he has had throughout his career. Bryant was known for arriving at the game venue 3-4 hours before any other player or official to ensure his pre-game preparation was interruption free in order to be at his best always. He uses this time to enjoy the sport he plays and take in the environment whilst also ‘zeroing’ in on the job he has to do just a few hours later. He does this by mimicking game situations and performing 250-500 shots from all areas on the court, in all different scenarios that he will possibly face in the game. This results in no game situation being a surprise for Bryant as he has already anticipated and knows his reaction. His pre-game routine, combined with this same routine being intensified as a daily practice regime means everything he does in a game of basketball is second nature, allowing him to always be at his best, for himself and for his team.
“Why” – the explanation of the behaviour
Bryant’s routine can be explained by two theories; Personality Theory and Motivation Theory.
Humanistic Theory of Personality
Humanistic theory of Personality originated in the 1950’s, a time where psychodynamic and behaviourist theories were the main explanations of personality (Deci & Ryan, 1985). However, some psychologists believed that the above theories ignored the personality qualities that make us as humans unique, much like; self-determination and self-realisation (Herbel, 2012). The Humanistic approach is optimistic in nature, focussing on conscious and rational thinking that controls the biological urges in order for one to reach their full potential. Meaning people have the ability to control their own lives and actions along with having the ability to change their own attitudes and behaviour. Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers are responsible for these ideas (Deci & Ryan, 1985) . The humanistic approach whilst based off the idea that people are innately good, the original people studied in relation to this theory were people who were considered healthy, creative, and productive (Gruber, 2009 ). Based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in which a person moves from one level of needs to the other once the more basic level of need is satisfied (Deci ; Ryan, 1985). Humanistic theory of personality relates to sports stars like Bryant and their pre-game routines as the main idea of both, is the human need to be the best one can be at all times, reaching or aiming to reach their fullest potential.
Kobe Bryant can be analysed by sports psychologists from all aspects of his game, the achievements he has made throughout his long, 20 season career are unlike any other. Therefore all areas of his game have been assessed from, technique, to eating and sleeping habits, to his thoughts and life experiences, however in all of this research of one of the best sportsmen the world has ever see, very little research has been done to explain his pre-game routine . Most are just in awe of the routines repetitive and meticulous nature, and how it must just work for him. When in reality , many psychological theories can be linked to the mental processes of a routine like his (Gruber,2008a). Bryant’s routine is entirely based on his self-determination and ability to be optimistic whilst focussing on controlling his biological urges, to result in him reaching his full potential (Smith, 2008). He controlled the aspects of his life and his career that he could control. The ability to do this optimises Maslow’s Humanistic Theory of Personality.
Incentive Theory of Motivation
Motivation can be explained as a force that inspire and direct goal-oriented behaviours in people. Motivation can cause people to perform an action or engage in a certain behaviour that ensures the person is closer to their goal (Weinberg ; Gould, 1999). B.F Skinner’s Incentive Theory of Motivation encompasses the belief that motivation is fundamentally fuelled by the idea of a reward or incentive (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2011). An incentive being an object or event present that encourages a person to perform a specific action. The incentive can be a material object or even and intangible reaction, or experience (Bernstein, 2011). An example of this is a person going to work every morning because working leaves them with money, whereby money is their incentive to go to work, or a student studying hard for a good result on an exam, the good result is the incentive, however cannot be reached without the drive of motivation to perform the original act.
This theory dates back to the 40’s and 50’s and it directly relates to what is known as Operant Conditioning. Operant Conditioning states that individuals learn and perform different behaviours to either gain reinforcement or avoid punishment (Weinburg & Gould, 1999). This idea leads us to the basis of Incentive theory whereby it is believed that it is rewards that drive our actions and behaviours (Franzoi, 2011). In some ways sport is one of the first thing in a person’s mind when motivation is concerned, therefore investigating the program of a sportsman as successful as Bryant can explain the level of success within incentive theory of motivation.
Kobe relates to incentive theory as his pre-game routine is the first steps working toward to goal he has of being the best he can be, nailing every shot he shoots. Being the best he can be at what he does. Incentive theory can work in multiple ways in regard to Bryant as the ‘micro’ immediate incentive Bryant is working towards is successful shots in games he plays, in these circumstances he sees the results and reaches his goal perse every time he scores a point, as his pre-game routine has ensured he is successful. Then there is delayed incentives of motivation showing through in the awards and representative/ specialty teams he is chosen for. Therefore in regards to this theory there are both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations at play for Bryant. Bryant’s Intrinsic Motivators being the small wins involved in the micro successes, and the feeling that gives the athlete. Whereby, Bryant performs his pre-game routine as he enjoys the behaviour as well as seeing an opportunity to learn, and reach his potential (Coon & Mitterer, 2010). And the Extrinsic motivation for Bryant is the outward successes he receives as credit to the original behaviour in his pre-game routine, due to these behaviours making him the consistent player he is chosen and awarded as being.
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