Sam Smith's NBA.com story on the departure of Tom Thibodeaucontains a pretty all-encompassing anecdote on the now former Chicago Bulls head coach. Back in 2011, Thibs was selected to throw out the opening pitch at a Chicago White Sox game. He took the honor extremely seriously as only Thibs could.
Thibodeau enlisted a Bulls staffer and he went out and purchased several dozen baseballs a few days before the game. Then after a typical off season day of preparing for the NBA draft and already combing game film for next season, they adjourned to a nearby baseball field.
Thibodeau went to the mound about 50 feet away with the bucket of baseballs and started throwing one after another until sweat was pouring off him on the hot, humid afternoon. For perhaps an hour, Thibs practiced his throw. Almost all of them were perfect as Thibs still is a pretty good athlete and despite a late night appetite still was in good shape before knee surgery to come. But another and another. Like his practices and walk throughs in his philosophy of life and basketball, it's in the preparation and the building of habits.
But there was more than just throwing the ball.
Thibs practiced walking the 50 or 60 feet back and forth; he practiced a wave, which he would do so casually and professionally that night. A little league team showed up after a while to practice on the field. Thibs persuaded them to give him a little more time and again he went through the routine as they watched.
I have to be honest and say that this sounds borderline insane. I can understand throwing a few balls to get loosened up, but practicing the walk and the wave?? That's probably taking things a little too far.
One of the funniest aspects here is that when interviewed about the opening pitch, Tom says "I haven't thrown a ball in a long time," obviously not counting the hundreds he'd been throwing in the days prior to the game.
Take a look at the pitch:
Solid throw. Should have been after all the practice, right?