Ben Gordon: A day in the life...
Ben Gordon averaged career-highs in points (21.4), assists (3.6) and rebounds (3.1) last season.
(Adam Fluck/Chicago Bulls)
Posted September 18, 2007 | By Adam Fluck
Championship dreams are born at an early age for many NBA players.
Visions of cutting down the nets date back to when they saw their childhood idol—Michael Jordan perhaps—holding the Larry O'Brien championship trophy. Making the league is just the beginning of realizing that dream for the lucky few that do. But a necessary step along the way, one that you rarely read about in the papers, comes during the offseason.
Often viewed as “make or break” time for players, the summer months are what separate the good from the great. Players with drive and determination will put themselves into a position to succeed. Those without it may be able to skate by on their abilities alone, but will likely fall short of their ultimate goals. Notorious workhorse Ben Gordon is well aware of these concepts. Read below for an in-depth look at a day in the life of Gordon, his two-a-day workout sessions at the gym, his dietary habits, and how he keeps a low profile.
On some days, Gordon is up as early as 6:00 a.m. But this morning, he’s out of bed by half past 7 to get his day started. His workout schedule usually dictates when he wakes up, and today he plans to make it to the Berto Center by mid to late morning. Gordon doesn’t need an alarm to be up on time—he is asleep by as early as 10 or 11 the night before when he wants to come in early and has no problem waking up on his own.
First things first, Gordon is a man of faith. He’s never been particularly outspoken about his beliefs—at least not publically— but each morning begins the same way. “I grew up in the church, so the first thing I do after I wake up is read and pray,” says Gordon of his daily ritual.
Before breakfast, Gordon likes to get online for the latest news in the basketball world. The very first site he checks out, especially during the offseason, is HoopsHype.com. “You can find a lot of rumors on there,” he says. He’s got a few other NBA-related sites he visits on a regular basis, including NBA.com, where he reads every entry of Gilbert Arenas’ blog. Next, Gordon checks his email.
His morning meal isn’t ready yet, so while he waits, Gordon calls the most important person in his life, his Mom. Yvonne Gordon, a long-time administrative assistant for IBM, still lives in New York. The two talk every day, and Gordon says those are phone calls he wouldn’t miss for the world.
With his Mom’s help, he recently hosted the third annual Ben Gordon Community Unity Weekend (Aug. 24-25) in his hometown of Mount Vernon. The event has grown and expanded each year. A gospel concert with live performances was held on Friday with basketball clinics, games and other activities on Saturday. The best part of the weekend for Gordon, hands down, was working with the kids.
“It’s a very sentimental weekend for me because that’s where I grew up,” he says. “I learned a lot about life and the game of basketball there. It feels good to go back and be in a position where I can be a role model for the younger kids. I get a lot of joy knowing that I can be successful and go back and help people and be an inspiration for them.”
Finally, it’s time to eat. Gordon’s breakfast consists of a mushroom and cheese omelet made with egg whites, French toast and hash browns. Other days, he eats scrambled egg whites, chicken links, and wheat toast. He doesn’t do the cooking himself—it’s usually a take out order from a Bakers Square or another local spot.
No day is complete until Gordon has spoken to his mother, Yvonne, who lives at home in Mount Vernon, NY.
(David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images)
You might be surprised to know the internet isn’t Gordon’s lone news source. He also subscribes to the USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune. “I like to scan through all of those to keep abreast of what’s going on,” he says. “I’m also trying to become more business-savvy and I’ve got a few stocks I follow.” One of Gordon’s close friends and roommates is a business analyst who he also leans on for advice and knowledge in general.
It’s now time to go to work for Gordon, who typically arrives at the Berto Center, the team's practice facility, in Deerfield between 9 and 11. On this particular day, he heads straight to the court and immediately starts shooting to get loose. Gordon has a handful of drills that he mixes in to his routine to “break up the monotony” of the hundreds of shots he hoists each workout.
“Usually to warm up, I’ll start with a lot of repetition,” he said. “I’ll stand in one spot and shoot a bunch mid-range shots and then make my way around the court.” Following that, he extends his shots to behind the three-point line, where he repeats the same pattern.
Rebounding for Gordon throughout it all is Imran John, another roommate and long-time friend dating back to their childhood in Mount Vernon. John has been by Gordon’s side for the last year and a half as his personal assistant, helping him with his workouts, day-to-day errands and appointments. There’s very little verbal interaction between the two during the workout. John has a good feel for how Gordon operates, from where he likes his passes to what routine is next.
It’s times like these when you can truly appreciate how precise of a shooter Ben Gordon is. After draining more than 15 threes in a row, he takes his first break to down some Gatorade and catch his breath.
“Becoming a better shooter doesn’t mean you’re improving—it’s also about mechanics, footwork, and being able to do those things at game speed,” Gordon explains. “It’s also about still being able to function at a high level when you’re tired and still being able to make plays.”
Within a minute, he’s back on the court.
After more shooting, he brings two folding chairs on the court and strategically places them about 10-12 feet from the hoop. As Gordon runs routes and curls around the chairs, John feeds him passes to set up each shot.
Gordon coaches his team in the annual basketball game during Ben Gordon Community Unity Weekend at Hartley Park on Aug. 25, 2007 in Mount Vernon.
(David Dow/NBAE/Getty Images)
“I work on a lot of things coming off ‘pin-downs,’” he says of the drill. “Those are shots you see guys like Rip Hamilton, Ray Allen and Michael Redd take a lot. I start off at close range, work my way to mid-range, and extend it to the perimeter. That way, I’m doing the same drill from every distance on the floor, rather than shooting from some random spot. Each time I’ll add a different move in too. One time I might do a step back, the next I might take one dribble forward. It’s a matter of mixing it up and giving me different options.”
Gordon’s hope is that working on those kinds of moves during the summer, especially towards at the end of an intense, two-hour workout when fatigue is starting to kick in, is exactly what will help him during the season.
As Gordon hits the two-hour mark of his workout, he’s drenched in sweat. He heads to the free throw line where he makes 18 of his first 20 attempts.
While he shoots, Head Coach Scott Skiles makes a brief appearance in the gym, challenging Gordon to shoot 90 percent from the line this season. Gordon, who shot 86.4 percent last season, thinks about it and says, “Man, that’s tough.” But, it’s doable. In 10 postseason games last year, Gordon connected on 92.1 percent of his charity shots, good for fourth best in the NBA. (For the record, Skiles shot better than 90 percent twice in his career and finished with an 88.9 free throw shooting percentage.)
Following a workout which lasted just over two hours, Gordon makes his way to the hot-and-cold tub. Following some warm down stretching, he hits the showers and gets ready to head out.
Gordon acknowledges he hasn’t spent as much time in the weight room this summer. He focused on the weights a lot when he first came into the league, but now he feels that conditioning is a little more important for him. Thus, Gordon has dedicated the bulk of his time on the court, attempting to do as much as he can at full game speed—an admittedly challenging task. “The season is a good eight months long, and I’m in the weightroom all season," he explains. "So it’s not like I’m neglecting it. It’s just something where I don’t spend as much time in it as I used to.”
Driving in his black Range Rover, Gordon and John leave the Berto Center and head to a local restaurant for lunch.
While a half-pound burger might sound appealing after a long workout, Gordon is careful about what he eats. On his menu today is a large salad with anchovies—that’s right, anchovies. It was the first time Gordon had tried them on something other than pizza but it didn’t fill him up, so he ordered pasta with chicken as well. He also makes a point of eating his veggies on the side.
“You’re body will talk to you,” Gordon says. “When I’m doing two-a-day workouts, I can feel it if I didn’t get enough rest or I didn’t eat the right thing. If I can eat a lot of healthy foods, that will give me energy. It basically replenishes everything I lost during my workout.”
One of Gordon’s goals over his career has been getting to the free throw line more often, where he’s proven to be a clutch shooter. Last season, he connected on 380-of-440 attempts, compared to 211-of-268 the season before.
(Adam Fluck/Chicago Bulls)
Gordon has always been pretty health conscious, but he said he started focusing on his diet as a freshman in college. “We had our meal cards back then, and we could go to the cafeteria as many times as we wanted. Having all those options and the food right there for us, I was able to go in and have my salad and everything else and eat a well-balanced meal. Your diet really makes a big difference.”
While he waits for his lunch, Gordon’s eyes are glued to his video iPod. On it, he watches highlights from all of the NBA’s stars, from Kidd to Kobe to LeBron. The reel was put together specifically for Gordon by a member of the Bulls basketball operations department. Gordon, a self-proclaimed student of the game, carefully monitors the best of the best, trying to learn from each one and add new elements to his repertoire along the way.
Once Gordon has returned home, he typically makes a few phone calls. On that list is a call to Raymond Brothers, Gordon’s new agent in a particularly important summer—he’s eligible to sign a contract extension prior to the start of the 2007.08 season. Gordon opted to go with Brothers not long after last season ended, a move prompted by a number of factors.
“The group of people I was working with before had kind of split ways, so it wasn’t the same,” says Gordon. “I just want to make sure all my business is handled properly and with a guy like Ray, he’s an attorney as well as an agent, so he’s able to cover a lot of things. He’s a good person on top of it all. I never had any worries about trusting him, so it was an easy decision for me to make.”
Gordon has known the Los Angeles-based Brothers since he started college, and the agent’s client list boasts another former UConn Husky, Caron Butler. Gordon said he’s kept in touch with Brothers over the years and the timing was right to form an alliance.
When the two talk, though, it’s not always about the extension. There are a lot of day-to-day items to cover, including endorsement deals, investment options and even real estate deals that might be of interest to Gordon. Regarding a new deal, Gordon is remaining patient, understanding the process having seen Kirk Hinrich go through it last season. Hinrich’s deal was signed at the last minute, and Gordon said he anticipates that the same could happen with his.
“It’s a negotiation process,” he says. “I understand there are two sides who ultimately want the same thing. I’m definitely confident I’ll be here in Chicago for a long time.”
During a little bit of down time, Gordon prepares for two appearances he’s got later in the week—the first on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” at Chicago's Navy Pier to discuss his endorsement contracts. The taping was the first in an eight-week, eight-city series, "Making Money Across America: The 'Power Lunch' Road Show." Other guests included Chicago Mercantile Exchange CEO Craig Donohue, Allstate CEO Thomas Wilson and U.S. Cellular CEO John Rooney.
Gordon also appeared on a taping of the “Oprah Winfrey Show” which focused on men’s health. Featuring medical expert Dr. Mehmet Oz, the show is expected to air in the coming weeks. Other than thinking of a question or two for Dr. Oz, Gordon’s main concern on this day was finding the right suit to wear. “You’ve got to look good on Oprah,” he says with a smile.
Gordon pauses between drills at the Berto Center. Training camp opens in just two short weeks.
(Adam Fluck/Chicago Bulls)
Knowing there’s more work to be done, Gordon takes advantage of the afternoon hours to catch a quick nap.
Gordon makes his way to a local gym and attends a Pilates class that usually lasts anywhere from 60-90 minutes. He’s got a couple spots he goes to for the classes, one in the northern suburbs closer to his home and another downtown. “It’s mostly to work on my stretching and flexibility,” Gordon says. “It’s also helped with my range of motion. It’s just another way to keep my body in as good of shape as it can be.”
Without wasting time, Gordon departs from his Pilates and goes directly back to the Berto Center for an evening session. On most days, the Bulls staff has left an hour or so before his arrival and he’s got the building to himself. His second workout of the day lasts just as long as his first one. He focuses on many of the same things but mixes in different angles to his workout and changes up the elements when he can.
As the day comes to an end, Gordon returns home and usually gets back online. He checks up on e-mails again and visits another site we’ve all heard of: YouTube. “It’s amazing how much stuff you can find on there,” he says. “Usually somebody will send me a link to check out and I’ll be up all night laughing.” Another big pastime of Gordon’s is movies—he makes regular trips to the local theater and has a wide variety of flicks, old and new, in his DVD collection.
We apologize to everyone expecting to read about a crazy night out on the town, because by nature, Gordon is pretty low key. Most nights, especially during the week, he’s at home relaxing and getting ready for the next day.
Gordon is planning on an early morning, so tonight he’s in bed fairly early. Another full day lies ahead.