Hard work pays off! If you want to win a NBA championship you need to work even harder. The regular 82 game season sets the stage for a more important season, the playoffs. In order to win and outperform the competition players buckle down for a year round training commitment. It's not what you do on the court that makes you great it's what players do off the court which nobody witnesses which distinguish the great from the average player.
The NBA season stretches out over the year during an eighth month period. During the other four months of the year players prepare relentlessly to have an advantage over the competition. It's not just putting hours in the weight room or an extensive cardio workout, it's improving offensive and defensive techniques which are noticed on the stat sheets.
When jump shots, trick passes and overall hustle are practiced it gives players a superior edge. It may even be the difference between winning and losing. If a team is lucky to have enough star talent the hard work players put in during the offseason may even lead to a NBA championship. The goal of a NBA player is to work on what you struggled with during the regular season. It's significant to always find ways to improve your quality of play. Though some players just ride the bench and collect a paycheck there are few and far between who go the extra mile to separate the average from the championship worthy.
The following are the Top 15 NBA players with an unbelievable work-ethic...
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15 Karl-Anthony Towns
Most 20 year olds are nursing a killer hangover the day after their birthday, not rookie sensation Karl-Anthony Towns. The morning after Towns' birthday he was running laps on a track at a nearby high school. Less than 21 years old, Towns along with Andrew Wiggins have taken on the task of brining the Minnesota Timberwolves out of the shadows.
The center is often found in the gym before and after games and on off days, constantly working on his shot and technique. Though Towns is just a rookie he approaches the game like a veteran. The professionalism he has demonstrated so far in his career is very unique. He often is his biggest critic and gives off the vibe of all work and no play.
14 Gordon Hayward
Before Gordon Hayward was one of the league's most prolific scorers he had missed the final game winning shot as the Duke Blue Devils beat his alma mater Butler Bulldogs in the 2010 NCAA National Championship.
Since entering the league that following June, Hayward has done more than increase his shooting percentage. The small forward was a lanky kid when he entered the league, six years later he built himself into an athletic scorer with long hours in the gym and countless drills on the court.
13 Paul George
For the last five years Lebron James has been the most dominant player in the Eastern Conference if not the entire league. Fans often forget about Paul George and how he helped shape the Pacers into a playoff contending team.
The gruesome knee injury George sustained while competing in a USA basketball game back in 2014 was mortifying. Fans either believed his career was over or he wouldn't be able to play at the same level again.
The small forward has defied the odds and returned to his original form, possibly more improved. George is a workhorse! He lifts weights before every game and sets aside time to shoot between 300-400 shots each night.
12 Dirk Nowitzki
It's without a doubt that Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest foreign player to ever play in the NBA. When the center entered the league in 1998 he was tall and lanky. The 16 years that followed Dirk transformed from a scrawny player from Germany into one of the most dominant scorers the league has ever seen.
The big man's signature one foot jump shot wasn't mastered overnight. Teammates over the years have described Dirk's work ethic as the best they've ever seen. Nowitzki is the first one in the gym before a game and the last one to leave. He's fully committed to working on his mechanics. Even on his day off he's in the gym improving his level of play.
11 Tim Duncan
You don't earn the nickname "Big Fundamental" for just showing up to work everyday. Spurs forward Tim Duncan has made quite a name for himself in the league over the past 19 seasons. Fans describe him as being one of the most dedicated players to ever take the court.
The forward has constantly kept himself in incredible shape each passing season. Spurs hard nosed coach Greg Popovich has stated he has been one of the most coachable players he has ever seen! The Spurs have always had success in the playoffs but the season doesn't end for Duncan in June, he keeps on going all the way through the fall.
Duncan participates in summer sprint workouts to keep his body in the best possible shape. In addition to physical training Duncan constantly practices his footwork and court-reading ability to have an edge over the competition. No reason why he's referred to as Big Fundamental.
10 Kyle Lowry
It's been a rough past few seasons for the Toronto Raptors. All the team's hard work they put in during the regular season led to a first round exit in the playoffs. This past offseason point guard had a different vision for his team.
Lowry was in the gym every day during the offseason. The way he saw it was the playoffs beat them. He dedicated himself to get stronger to compete with powerful offenses like Cleveland Cavaliers to hopefully earn a trip to the NBA Finals.
9 Dwyane Wade
Though Lebron is considered one of the most dominant players in the league, without Dwyane Wade he may have never reached his full potential. Wade was the primary reason Lebron left Cleveland to play in Miami. Wade's talent wasn't the only reason Lebron decided on South Beach, but his approach to the game.
Wade's offseason workout will make an average joe into a human superman. It consists of leg curls and intense abs workout in addition to repetitive drills and techniques. The three-time NBA champion is in his early thirties, so he works on his explosive force to stay on top of his game despite growing older.
8 Klay Thompson
League MVP Stephen Curry has been on such an incredible run for the past two seasons fans often forget about his Splash Brother Klay Thompson. The sharp shooting guard has one of the quickest releases in the league.
Thompson is well known for his scoring but has committed himself to being one of the best two-way players in the league today. In the first round of the playoffs Thompson's defensive training techniques he practiced in the offseason paid off as he shut down one of the league's top scorer's in James Harden.
Thompson doesn't quit said his head coach Steve Kerr. Whenever his team turns the ball over Thompson will often be the first player at the other end of the court defending a fast break play.
7 Kevin Durant
It's been four years since Kevin Durant has made his only appearance in the NBA Finals. Since being beaten in five games by the Miami heat Durant has put in his heart and soul into getting his team back there. His 2014 MVP award showed his dedication to improve his level of play.
Durant's well known quote "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard" has been demonstrated on a nightly basis. He's been the Thunder's leader scoring the past three seasons, it may seem like a breeze but when playing alongside Russell Westbrook anything is challenging.
6 Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler's road to the NBA has been one with many speed bumps. The leading scorer for the Chicago Bulls had to do a lot to earn his five-year $90 million contract extension he signed this past offseason.
Growing up in Texas he was abandoned by his family, but the rejection from those who were supposed to love him the most just enhanced his motivation. He started playing at Tyler Junior College in Texas and eventually transferred to Marquette.
All of Butler's coaches including former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau have stated he's one of the most dedicated human beings that they have ever known. Butler has been named an All Star the last two years and won Most Improved Player of the Year honors in 2015.
5 Kawhi Leonard
It's hard to believe that Kawhi Leonard has been in the league for five seasons already. The forward has built quite an impressive resume for himself during his short time in the league. His track record includes being crowned a NBA Champion, Finals MVP and two-time defensive player of the year.
His success didn't happen over night he worked at it, as a matter in fact he continues to do so. Kawhi's motivation is just to become the best player he possibly can. Spurs head coach Greg Popovich refers to him as a gym rat, always on the court before and after practice, getting shots in and working on his form. So much so he's even needed to get security to force his star player off the court to avoid injury and exhaustion.
4 Lebron James
If your referred to as the "chosen one" you need to outwork, out hustle and outplay everyone. Since being drafted first overall in 2003 Lebron James has accomplished all three, not to mention winning two championships and four league MVP's.
James entered the league as a slim small forward and failed to win Cleveland the championship they yearned for. When he went to Miami his performance went off the charts. The lanky kid from Akron developed into a ripped power forward.
James leads by example and he shows it on a daily basis. He's the first one at practice and the last to leave. Losing the 2011 finals pushed him even harder. At 31 years old James shows no sign of slowing down, especially when it comes to improving his game.
3 Russell Westbrook
When Kevin Durant won MVP in 2014 everyone assumed he was the best player on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Just over two years later point guard Russell Westbrook has reached that same level.
Since Durant won MVP in 2014 he's been battling numerous injuries. This hasn't slowed down the Thunder is the least. Westbrook has taken the team and the league by storm. Over the last two seasons he's led the league in triple doubles with the help of his explosive style of play.
When Durant recovered from injuries, in order to help lead the team Westbrook watched film constantly. It wasn't just to see what he could do to help to his team win but to also pick up on what other teams were doing wrong which has allowed him to dominate the league.
2 Stephen Curry
Last season the Golden State Warriors shocked the world with their electrifying offense which earned them their first championship in 40 years. Team captain Stephen Curry shattered league and team scoring records and was named MVP. Curry's hard work didn't begin when he entered the NBA though.
At Davidson College he would get up at 6 A.M. everyday and hit the gym. After working out he hit the basketball court and would often have double shooting sessions to improve his level of play.
Curry practices relentlessly to this day! Before each game he goes through an intensive dribbling workout with two basketballs to keep him sharp during the game.
1 Kobe Bryant
It was an emotional final season for Kobe Bryant. What was more disappointing was the Lakers failed to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive season after winning 17 games. Despite the struggling season Bryant didn't stop his drive to be successful.
The Black Mamba's drive to win and be the greatest is most impressive. In 2008 when he played with Team USA for the Olympics as the roster was rubbing sleep out of their eyes Bryant was already finishing up his workout.
From his first game in 1996 to his final appearance in 2016 he counts his shots made during practice. It may seem like a surprise or even an obsession but the workhorse will not rest until he makes 400 baskets.
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