By Ellie Lieberman
Last season, Ivan Rabb was on another level for the Westchester Knicks. He averaged 16.5 points and 12.1 rebounds and received the Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award for his dominance on the court, and dedication to local communities off-the-court. But getting to that point wasn’t necessarily smooth sailing. On Episode 5 of Mental Buckets, Rabb talks to Packie and Mike about the steps he needed to take to realize his full potential in the NBA.
From 2017-2019, Rabb played for the Memphis Grizzlies, but never quite found his role, after proving himself at Cal. The Grizzlies had a plethora of proven veterans such as Marc Gasol, Chandler Parsons and JaMychal Green. He describes a conversation with Green during his initial struggles in which Green said, “Go out there and try to dominate. You’re not playing for this team. You’re playing for every team in the league.”
Rabb took that advice to heart and believed he had the necessary ingredients to thrive in the league once being picked up by the Westchester Knicks, but then was signed only to a two-way contract. In his second stint with the Knicks organization, Rabb did not take that time for granted, and as shown by his stat line, excelled. Rabb credits his growth to finding a routine that worked for him.
“I had to do whatever I could to separate myself. I was done with the Playstation. I’m up at 6 AM every day, putting this work in and no one’s going to outwork me and it’s crazy how quickly my whole life changed because I put my time ahead… ” Rabb said on Mental Buckets.
Not only was Rabb significantly better at finding a routine, but he was stronger at triaging his priorities. He tells Mike and Packie that he put basketball and family above anything else and showed up consistently in both those regards. When he had spare time, he watched documentaries about athletes such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, who had put in every spare minute of time to dominate in basketball.
Another important step on the mental side that Rabb details taking is deciding to journal every day. Peers and mentors in the game had suggested journaling, but Rabb didn’t take to it until 2019, and that coincided with a longtime role for the Knicks.
“I got a chance to vent in a different way and that was huge for me. It was therapeutic. I could be honest. I was proud of myself,” Rabb said on Mental Buckets.
Ultimately, the attention to detail of creating a routine, and pairing that with adequate reflection, were the steps needed for Rabb to realize how much he could bring to the court when his entire mind is there. And he’s not done yet.
There’s one particular exercise Clair Steele will never forget from UPB. And that’s Packie’s famous five-minute plank that would be thrown in at the end of workouts. Clair Steele used to dread those planks.