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Pacers Learn Valuable Lessons From Stedman Graham

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

October 18, 2013

When practice concluded on Tuesday, Indiana Pacers players showered and then changed into business attire. Despite still suffering from jet lag – their body clocks were 12 hours ahead – and ready to go to sleep, the team sat on high chairs in The Locker Room restaurant and listened to Stedman Graham, a well-known entrepreneur and the author of eleven books, including You Can Make It Happen: A Nine-Step Plan for Success – the focus of the approximately 90 minutes session.

The idea to bring Graham in came from Pacers owner Herb Simon, who has a relationship with him. He mentioned it to then-team president Donnie Walsh last spring and he passed the idea on to Clark Kellogg, the Pacers’ Vice President of Player Relations. Kellogg reached out to Stedman after looking at his website and the two found a date that worked for both parties.

"He talked about self-awareness and [how to] identify leadership,” Kellogg explained. “And then I looked at what his website talked about him doing in schools, with corporations and executives and a vast array of audiences. Then, I spoke to him in April or May, and what he was talking about resonated with me as something our guys needed to hear."

According to his website, StedmanGraham.com, “Stedman’s mission is to transform people from followers to leaders and change the way they think and learn. He says that “many of us spend years trying to find out who we are and, sadly, too many of us never do. If we fail to define ourselves, we risk letting others define us by our race, gender, and background. We buy into the labels that keep us in a box and, as a result of those limitations, never reach or realize our greatest potential.”

Tuesday wasn’t the first time Graham, who has a Master’s degree in Education from Ball State University, was brought in. Kellogg estimated that Graham spoke with the team about six or seven years ago; Danny Granger was the only current player on the team back then.

"Find your identity. Find who you are,” George Hill said Graham emphasized. “Find what you want to do in life, what drives you, what your goals are. The main thing is don't be a consumer; be a producer. I don't think people really understand that [you should] try to do things in life where everything is directed towards you, instead of away from you and you be the one that produces all the waves.

"He had everyone's full attention. What he was saying was just remarkable. He's been at the highest points in life and the lowest points in life. He's been around successful people and it was good to hear his story."

Orlando Johnson, who’s had to overcome so much adversity in his young life and is mature beyond his years, said he took a ton away from Graham’s points. Mostly, it gave him a brighter outlook on what he needs to do to build on his career, and post-basketball life.

"I liked when he talked about love,” Johnson said of his favorite part. “He explained the things we love the most, list why we love [them]. The things we don't love about it, just list out what's important in our life and make it a goal to get better at them each and every day, and to really expand our minds by reading a lot more and not being on your phone as often."

Graham provided the players with a copy of his book of which the talk centered around, as well as a pamphlet on his vision and what success means.

One of the biggest lessons for the guys was for them to truly learn who they are. If pulled away from basketball, who are they each as individuals? Basketball is the start of something, but Graham wants them to build on it and become something greater.

“It was really powerful,” said Kellogg, who was present for the talk. “I think our guys, just based on their attentiveness and also the interactions some of guys had with him afterwards, I think it served the purpose of causing them to think about not just what they do but also who they are.

"It was about finding your identity and separating yourself from the pack,” said Roy Hibbert. "I didn't know anything [about him before this]. I just knew that he dated Oprah. I thought that was it for years. It was nice to meet the person and I'm going to read his book eventually.”

Now in his fourth year in his current role, Kellogg would like to sprinkle two or three speakers in a season, if possible. Previously, he has had some local guys give a lesson on financial education. Later this season, he plans to have a male and female team come in and do a little different type of financial presentation. It’s all in an effort to make the guys better individuals and better teammates.

“When you put people in front of them that can talk about those kinds of things and cause them to think about it in their own world, I think that’s part of what our charge is – to educate and empower our guys so they can perform, not just professionally but personally at a high level,” said Kellogg.

Added the veteran, David West: "Clark's talked about trying to bring in some different voices and giving us some different perspective than what we've been used to. I've been in the league for 11 years and we kind of hear the same people over and over again saying the same things. This is the first time having the opportunity to hear from somebody of his stature in to give us his view of success, totally away from sports."

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