Mindfulness in Sports: How is it that NBA stars Stephen Curry and Michael Jordan Love Golf?

Stephen Curry, super-accurate with the basketball, is about to lead his Golden State Warriors into the 2019 NBA Finals as of this writing. Curry has been spectacular despite a dislocated finger suffered against the Houston Rockets.

Curry’s painful taped up finger hasn’t slowed down the superstar on the court, but it has done something which, to Curry could be almost as bad: it has called a halt to his golf game, which he plays throughout the NBA playoff championships.

Golf? There might be a double take here for those that don’t follow basketball. On the surface, the two sports couldn’t be more different. While basketball is a nonstop, highly athletic maelstrom of movement, golf action comes in intervals. And the golf swing, of course has no opponent, while in the gym your defenders are in your face without letup.

Of course, golf players and fans know that the game requires plenty of athleticism, training, coolness under pressure. The sport just plays out in a different way.

Still, it surprises many people that so many elite pro basketball players are avid golfers. Steph Curry, often considered among the best on the course, is only one among Chris Paul, JR Smith, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Ray Allen, and the list of top players goes on.

But why? Well golf is a vastly popular sport for one thing, a huge number of people live for it, some buying homes right on the golf course.

But maybe also, for a basketball player in the midst of one of the world’s most pressured sports events, the NBA playoffs, the differences between the sports are the draw.  Golf, explains New York Times sports writer Mark Stein, is “Curry’s go-to move for recharging himself mentally.”

Indeed, staying mentally “charged“ and connected to every detail is at the heart of golf, where everything can hang on a single swing. This mental preparation is the very essence of mindfulness, as we have described in earlier posts. Attention to every detail of the present moment is critical to the golfer. It’s no accident that the internet is full of essays and videos about: “golf and mindfulness.”

In our view, golf, aside from being plain fun, can be seen as a baller’s mindfulness exercise, one that helps propel these elite athletes to seemingly impossible goals.

So cannot we, who have our own sometimes daunting goals, take a leaf from the book of these athletes? We believe that mindfulness practice can do the same for us in everyday life, including in those of us in rehab, and treatment for recovery. That is why mindfulness is an important part of the Strive approach.

Please see our earlier posts here and on Facebook for more on mindfulness meditation and practice.