Amid the crush of fans who had spilled onto the court in the wake of the Golden State Warriors’ midweek win over the Los Angeles Lakers, a 6-foot-7 giant of a man approached the club’s bench.
He congratulated Zaza Pachulia and offered hugs to an injured Stephen Curry and general manager Bob Myers.
“Such a privilege to work with the warriors yesterday & then see this performance today!” Tony Robbins, the world-famous entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker wrote on his Twitter account later that night, his message punctuated with a smiling face with sunglasses emoji and a fist bump.
On Tuesday, a day after the Warriors had celebrated Curry’s 30th birthday in extravagant fashion — the guest of honor arrived via yacht, local legend E-40 rapped and everyone (even the coaches) danced — the team announced that practice had been cancelled.
It was an official off day, but unofficially, the day marked the latest date on the team’s speaking series, hosted by Steve Kerr. Robbins delivered the keynote.
“Tony was tremendous,” Kerr said. “He’s an incredibly dynamic human being and his messaging and the work he did with our guys [Tuesday] afternoon was fantastic. And I thought very, very helpful and we’re really grateful that he came in to help us out and I thought the guys were really excited about it and it was a fantastic afternoon.”
Robbins, who is to the world of motivational speaking what the Warriors are to the NBA — the gold standard — couldn’t stop cheering as JaVale McGee hustled for six rebounds and a pair of blocks in a 13-minute stint against the Lakers. After the game, in a nod to Robbins, McGee, who is noted for his musical and philanthropic efforts, tweeted the following: “Just a little bit of positivity can change your whole outlook on life!”
Robbins is also a close friend of Warriors co-owner Peter Guber, a riveting speaker himself. He often sits courtside during the playoffs with Guber and imparted a simple message when addressing the club.
“It all comes down to constantly raising your standards, knowing that there is always another level. It’s the little things that make the greatest difference,” Robbins wrote in an Instagram post after the event.
It was the ideal piece of wisdom for a Warriors team that has struggled with complacency following three consecutive trips to the Finals and that is suddenly beset with injuries — most notably to Curry Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant.
Kerr scatters these speaking engagements — and celebrity meet-and-greets — throughout the marathon NBA season. This year’s journey has left the reigning champs in an unfamiliar spot, staring up at the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference standings.
“It’s just a feel thing, in terms of trying to break up the monotony of the routine and the season,” Kerr explained.
In October, 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer dropped by the locker room after a preseason game in Shanghai, China. It was a meeting that resulted in Thompson challenging the world’s No. 1 player to a game of ping pong.
In January, as the Warriors dragged through the dog days, music moguls Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine visited the club’s downtown Oakland practice facility to talk all things business.
Early in March, after the Warriors dispatched the Atlanta Hawks on the road, Malcolm Gladwell, the author, journalist, speaker and noted smart dude, met with the team. Gladwell posted a picture with Curry on Twitter, with the following pithy caption.
“I have peaked.”
The most recent engagement — the meeting with the doyen of motivation — arrived at the perfect juncture for Curry, who is currently shut down until at least March 20 as the Warriors’ trainers and doctors attempt to stabilize the situation surrounding his troublesome right ankle.
“It was a really cool bonding experience for everybody on the team to kind of just understand a different perspective on what it means to be a team and have each other’s back and just be aware of the ups and downs — emotionally and physically — of what an NBA season brings,” Curry said.
In the frenetic world of pro sports, flooded with lopsided stars and coaches who concern themselves with nothing beyond their respective court or field, Kerr is the exception. He’s the rare well-rounded leader, so it comes as little surprise that he’d expose his players to a cross section of industry icons from music to entertainment to business and beyond.
He consistently provides his club with opportunities to interact with and learn from wildly successful individuals thriving in unfamiliar arenas. Robbins was the latest to remind the Warriors that the world is a big place, extending far beyond the court.
“[It’s] not just the X’s and O’s of making shots, missing shots, getting defensive stops — all that — but how life kind of intertwines with that,” Curry said. “I think it gave us a new perspective on just being a good teammate and looking out for each other and getting to know each other on a much deeper level. I think it will help us as we go forward, too.”