Humans Episode 28 – Chris Anstey

 Hello friends, welcome. Below you will find a transcript of a few sections from Episode 28 of Humans featuring the wonderful Chris Anstey. Chris was kind enough to give me and you some of his time and share some amazing insights into his learnings from a long career of being a top level athlete not only here in Australia, but Europe and the USA too.
If you like what you read and want to hear the full episode with much more, find the links below to your favourite podcast player and check it out!!

Luke: I can genuinely say you are the tallest guest I’ve ever had on the podcast. 
Chris: And I can generally say this is the smallest studio I’ve been in. 
L: I even feel like this is a small room. So I can’t imagine what it feels like for you at the moment. So well done for putting up with it. Thank you again for coming in, it’s a blast. 
 I’ve got to say I, one of the things that triggered me to, get in touch was after I read an article you did, or blog you did recently on the Sports Power Australia website and thought, that’s something that kind of encapsulates what this podcast is about. It’s more than just what you see. It’s the stuff behind it. And so the chance story around around you beating Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, I suppose was, just that. That blew my mind, and I wanted to ask you a bit about that idea of, there is a chance, no matter what the number
C: It’s ironic that by pure chance, I ended up watching “Dumb and Dumber” last night and as I watched it, it’s what I kept referring back to, when Lloyd Christmas says to Mary, what the chances of a girl like him ending up with a guy like her, and it ends up being one in a million, he said, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance?” And I suppose that was my experience with basketball in general as well as in this one particular game. I always liked the fact that I considered myself naïve, so often in anything that we do in sport and in life, we presume to know the outcome before even to attempt the task. And over the years, it occurred to me, that the best players that I’ve played against and the hardest to compete against, weren’t necessarily the most talented. They were the ones who could replicate their effort every single time. They never gave you a possession. 
 So often, we all know the answers, as adults, to most of life’s questions because they’re all written in front of us. They’re in books, everywhere. And you know what we can’t replicate in a book, or what we can’t add, is emotion. And when we get emotional, we make poor choices more often than not. That’s what sport gives us, because it is emotional. I found myself, back in 1998 in March, walking onto a basketball court to play against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. He’d announced his retirement. This was the last dance, they promoted that and I went through the absolute full spectrum of emotions. I was excited. I was nervous. I was anxious, all of these different things. I got to the game, I looked down the other end of the floor, and there was Michael Jordan, and as much as I’d become accustomed to playing against some pretty big names, this was different. I’d been starting, I was playing okay, and so I fully expected to start again, and I didn’t play a minute in the first half. So with all these emotions and my family was in the crowd because they’d come, flown from Australia to watch the Bulls and my friends were there, I didn’t play a second. So all of a sudden my emotions switch to anger and frustration and all these sort of things at half time. I just thought, this is the only chance I’m ever going to get and it’s been taken away from me. But I got on in the second half, and I suppose with that whole vortex of emotions that I’d experienced over the last few hours, the first minute or two I was on, I was so bad, I just didn’t feel like I was meant to be there. I felt like they would have been looking around thinking, Who the hell’s this guy?
 The first time I touched the ball, I actually went up to try to dunk it, and Michael Jordan fouled me. The worst thing I did when I walked back to the free throw line was, I looked around and I see Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson, Steve Kerr, Luc Longley and I just felt, what am I doing here? And I shot two of the worst free throws I’ve ever shot in my life. I suppose that was the moment for me that I thought I couldn’t get any worse. I thought, bugger it, just get back to what you’re doing. The coach, for some reason, kept me in, and we found a way to come back, one of my teammates. Cedric Ceballos hit a three almost on the buzzer to send the game into overtime. I played most of overtime and had probably the best minutes personally of the game. I hit a jump shot. I had a dunk, I got in a little scuffle with Dennis Rodman, and we won! You probably don’t learn a lot of the lessons in sports, or in life when they happen, you learn them months and years after. It was only then it sort of occurred to me. What are the odds of that happening? It’s just would have been unheard off. But to go back to the “Dumb and Dumber” reference, if one exists, why can’t it be the first time? And if it’s not the first time, why not the next time and so on and so forth?
 But I find so many people either never attempt and will give up really quickly without ever knowing that the one is just around the corner.  

C: I’ve been coaching a long time now, and I hope that I remain true, that I’ll never have a problem with any of my players making a skill error because I want them to push their boundaries, and I want them to explore what they’re capable of.
 What I have an issue with is what I call effort errors, where you’re not quite attempting to be your best or decision making. Selfish errors, where it becomes about you. If you’re trying your best and you’re doing what you’re trying to fill your role and you make a mistake, that’s okay. We can work with you. We can help you improve. But if you’re selfish or lazy, that’s where you’re probably not going to find yourself on the team for much longer. I heard Hamish and Andy, and even they are horrified at what they sounded like when they first started doing a podcast. And they say that they had every reason to quit at the start because they weren’t very good. But they kept finding things to do wrong because every time they did something wrong, they learned something else that did work. It’s Thomas Edison with the light bulb, there are stories all through history. But it’s true if we’re scared of doing something because we’ll fail, we’ll never figure out if we can become better at it. 
L: Do you find that hard to do as a coach, to put to your team and give them that confidence. 
C: I do, confidence is a hard thing. One of the common threads that I continually get is, “I’m used to coach is telling me what I can’t do”. And if you look at it like parents, how often do we tell our kids not to do things? We tell them off. So we keep restricting what they’re capable of because we feel like we need to control them. I’m not for a second, suggesting we just let the kids run rampant.
 There needs to be strategy behind it, but I still think we need to explore and allow people to explore what they’re capable of. You know, it’s a really tricky one, but it really is instilling confidence from preparation on having someone who believes that they can do it. When I first came back to the Melbourne Tigers from Europe, the Sydney Kings and won three championships in a row and there was just this sense in the group of, they’re unbeatable. And as much as we, DMac, who was my co captain, and I told the group that we didn’t believe it, we had to prove it. The minute we beat them for the first time in a regular season game, the group came in like we’d won a championship, when we only won by two or three and played out of our brains. I’ll never forget DMac walking in and saying, “what are you happy about? All we’ve done is proven we can beat them when it matters. Now, next time we ask you, can we beat them? You actually believe it because you’ve seen it, you’re not just saying yes because you think it’s the right answer.” 
  C: Having them understand, that if they don’t do it, it’s going to be okay, I’m not going to punish you. I’m gonna work with you to help. There’s a lot of people that are embarrassed by failure. They try to avoid it so they do things that they’re comfortable with. All of the special groups I’ve been a part of, are the ones who are prepared to just jump out on a ledge and see if they can fly. And if they don’t, someone will be there to catch them really quickly. Even a training, and I picked this one up from Al Westover as a player. We’d have ideas and he’d always give the players five or ten minutes at the end of practise if we needed it, to try what we wanted to. For him, even he was seeing if things work that he’d never thought of. It was a win win situation because if they worked, we’d add them. We’d all be on board because our our ideas is a playing group, and so we’re investing. If they didn’t work, then we’d stop bitching about it and telling him he should do things differently. But he’s only rule was we had to actively and to our best ability, try his way first, because we couldn’t assume it wasn’t going to work. 

L: As a young player, young athlete, did you have that belief? 
C: No, Brian Goorjian put that in me. My belief and my confidence was based on the fact that I knew I worked harder than most people I’ve ever met. And I certainly worked harder than what I knew myself to be capable of. And that included in the weight room on the floor, committing to my diet away from the sport before it became a thing, and everything associated with being a professional athlete because I thought that I was behind.
 So there is a sense that, the harder you work, and the more you invest in yourself, the less you want to give it up. One of my dumb little routines before every single game I played was, they always played the national anthem and so you face up looking at the other team with the flag in the middle of the floor. More often than not, I used to go down the opposition team. Look, each one in the eye. They probably weren’t looking at me, but in my head, I thought I worked harder than you, I worked harder than you. And I went down. Now that didn’t make me a better player. But I knew what I had invested to be on the floor in this time. So I wasn’t just going to be poor today and give it up. They were going to have to beat me. I wasn’t going to beat myself, which happens a lot in sport. 
L: What about when you stepped on the floor as a 22 year old in the states. A centre, your position, you would have had the American National anthem. You would’ve been staring in the face of Shaq, Olajuwon, Robinson, a young Tim Duncan who is dominating in his first season there. Even, Karl Malone and Rodman, what did that do for your confidence?
C: I learnt really, really quickly that I needed to learn to shoot. If I had to get in a wrestle with them and play in the post, I was dead. They’re just a different level. I think that’s a thing with sport.
 Australia is very isolated, we do have a very small population when you’re involved in a global sport, sometimes we forget how big and strong and athletic the rest of the world is. It’s still my pet peeve with basketball here in Australia, we invest so much time on skill development, we don’t allow enough time for physical development. If I asked anyone at any level, or most levels, who the hardest opposition they’ve ever come across was, you very rarely say they were the best ball handler or the best shooter, but they were the fastest, or they were the strongest or that they were the biggest. So we need to continually invest time and effort into creating faster, stronger athletes as well as more skilled athletes. And that’s what the United States got. That’s what they actually have, because their populations so great, they’re able to select from bigger, more athletic bodies. So that that was the biggest difference, I was always quite quick for my size, which allowed me some advantages.  
L: So did you find that coming back to Australia or vice versa, as far as, the training regimes go, that their focus was more on the strength? 
C: Yes was it was. I mean, the Magic was ahead of its time. The South East Melbourne Magic where we were in the weight room five days a week in the off season, three or four during the season. No one else was doing that. It kept us on the floor. It reduced our injury. Sometimes it was the genetic pool that you’re selecting from. But they were invested in being quicker and stronger, and they trained on court a lot less. As a basketball league here in Australia, we are the most overtrained, underplayed league in the world. We play less games and train far more often. So we don’t have time because our bodies were continually being burnt down. You think about it, a normal training session’s an hour and half to two hours, where every players involved. Most minutes per game every player’s involved is 25 to 30. So the volume of work training is higher than a game. When I got back here to Australia, it was amazing how much the game slowed down for me, it just seemed slower and I seem like I could just I could read plays better.
 I could anticipate better. By the time I came home, I was able to be reasonably successful on the teams I was on because comparative to Russia, in a physical point of view, and comparative to America, in a physical and speed point of view. The game was really slow and really small. 

L: Is that where you see the league moving? The NBL? I remember it seemed huge and maybe I was younger and smaller, but, I felt like arenas were packed out. There was some franchise players, so to speak, yourself, Gaze, Copeland, all these sort of guys that people in Melbourne would go and see, and then obviously it sort of disappeared for some reason, and now it’s building up. I know it’s a great league now and they’ve really got some good support behind it. Is it building?
C: It is. The thing is, I don’t think we need to compare ourselves to other people. There’s another one of your lessons that you try to instil into kids and players, to stop comparing yourself to other people. Just work on improving yourself. As a league we need to continue to do that. We don’t need to be better than a euro league, or even compare ourselves to it because we’re not competing in that market. Professional sport’s, no different to business. You get what you pay for and we in Australia as a nation doesn’t have as much money as Russia or some of the bigger European nations, certainly not the United States. So we missed the very top tier imports and always have because we can’t afford $2 million a year for an import. China can.
 L: What about the idea of the rookies like LaMelo Ball last year we saw coming across and doing that. That boosted the profile straight away and even more so now that he’s having a good run in the NBA. C: I think that’s the market. His choice was college, which is an unpaid, and he had no intention of graduating anyway. So he earns still a quarter million dollars, which is a good salary, he played against men. But I think the greatest thing for someone so young and even R. J. Hampton, who played in New Zealand, is we speak English, playing through summer, it’s a welcoming country for yourself and your family, so it’s not a jump off the cliff and have no support. I think we do a pretty good job of making sure that they can fit in reasonably seamlessly because our basketball community is very Americanised, so it’s a long way from home for them. They fit in, they come back, having played against bigger players. And you see how well LaMelo Ball is doing this year, which bodes well for more young players across for sure.  

L: You mentioned money. The money that you came across as a 22 year old Australian kid going to the States, and I mean, I know this could be a bit personal, but the pay cheques that these guys are getting over there, whether they’re rookies or about to retire or anywhere in the middle, seem unbelievable. To most people that look on the internet and see the salaries of what these guys are getting. Did you find even in your position that it was a bit overwhelming? 
C: I walked in and signed a contract for three million US dollars. That’s the part where you sort of sit back, I thought I was doing incredibly well back then, making $60,000 a year the magic. And now they’ve given me that every two weeks.
 It’s stupid. Yeah, so you do tend to get ahead of yourself a little bit. That’s probably the thing. And I’ve spoken to a few guys who have gone to the NBA. All you wanna do is make sure you get every cent. But you know, the advice I’ve always got is it’s the second one that you get rich. It’s the second contract, being able to stick around and make sure that you’re great at something which I wasn’t quite able to do after the Olympic Games in Sydney. I didn’t get my second contract. You can imagine, especially with the people who I would probably describe, as a little less level headed, imagine, giving to young kids who’ve grown up with nothing, saying here is $10 million, be humble, be sensible. Doesn’t work. 
L: There’s an amazing stat, I can’t remember the exact number, but it was something outrageous, like 80% of NBA players end up broke.
 C: They spend what they have. Bad advice. Bad people are around you. The agent I had was incredible. His name’s Leon Rose, and he always made sure that I sent home 95% of my salary. I live on 5% and then we work on investment. But I think anyone, especially when you’re young, you need to have, not people patting you on the back around you, but people who are genuinely looking out for your long term best interest. Get it put away, get it invested. Get yourself protected even in relationships. And if you get someone like that, yeah, it’s a big difference down the track.  

Follow the links for the full audio episode




Published by lukemccredden

Voiceover artist and podcast producer/creator.

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