NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock outlines his experience traveling to Portland, Oregon, for NBA superstar Damian Lillard's Formula Zero.
I grew up in and around the NBA, and my roller coaster journey through the basketball world has given me many unique vantage points into the game and the business behind the game. I started as an "NBA kid" as I had multiple family members work at the highest levels of NBA front offices, then I was a player, coach, and agent. I now serve as an NBA Draft Analyst and scout in the media.
Due to my background and experience, I often get asked, "what does it take to play in the NBA?"
Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer.
One thing is clear though if you don't have talent, it's not happening. The NBA is only for the best of the best, the cream of the crop, period. Talent is a prerequisite.
If one is lucky enough to possess the God-given talent to become an NBA prospect, that's great, but getting to the NBA and sticking are two completely different things. Regardless, the odds are stacked against everyone.
So, what else is needed to succeed if one possesses NBA talent?
I'll tell you (at least a little), it's called "The Formula."
This past week, I was invited to be a part of Formula Zero, where NBA superstar Damian Lillard, better known as "Dame," and his longtime coach and mentor, Phil Beckner, welcomed a group of 20 high school and 20 college prospects, to Portland, Oregon.
Upon arriving, they held an introductory meeting and dinner for the Formula Zero staff. I quickly learned that this was entirely different from any other camp. Actually, I realized it's not a camp at all. It's much bigger than that.
The staff, which is filled with experienced NBA coaches like, Kaleb Canales, Chris Farr, Dale Osbourne, Dave Severns, David Vanterpool, and others, were all handpicked by Dame, as they had all crossed paths with him at one point or another and made an impact in his life and career. In addition, Dame's nearly unparalleled NBA career led to him recently being named one of the top 75 NBA players of all time.
How has Dame found so much success? He credits it to "The Formula."
It was explained during our meeting that everyone was invited for a reason as they possessed the qualities that Dame and Phil felt necessary to be included in this newfound "community."
It suddenly dawned on me how lucky I was to be there. Although NBA scouts were given access to the on-court sessions, I was the only media member given any access at all. In addition, I was welcomed as a member of this exclusive new basketball community.
To say that I am honored and proud would be an understatement.
The next day, the players and staff were introduced to one another. As I glanced at the rosters and around the room, I saw many familiar names and faces of players that I had watched and evaluated many times but also some players I had not seen at all yet:
Jaden Akins - Michigan State
Trey Alexander - Creighton
Souley Boum - Xavier
Keyonte George - Baylor
Graham Ike - Wyoming
Dillon Jones - Weber State
Caleb Love - North Carolina
Dayvion McKnight - Western Kentucky
Mike Miles - TCU
Isiaih Mosely - Missouri
Kris Murray - Iowa
Tylor Perry - North Texas
Zyon Pullin - UC Riverside
Will Richard - Florida
Hunter Sallis - Gonzaga
Marcus Sasser - Houston
Jalen Slawson - Furman
Terrence Shannon Jr. - Illinois
Azuolas Tubelis - Arizona
Bryson Warren - Overtime Elite
Jalen Wilson - Kansas
Blake Buchanan - Lake City
David Castillo - Bartlesville
Jackson Cooper - Cleveland
Kaden Cooper - The Skill Factory
Eric Dailey Jr. - IMG
Zoom Diallo - Curtis Sr.
Scotty Middleton - Sunrise Christian
Jamari Phillips - Modesto Christian
Jace Posey - Strake Jesuit
Aaron Powell - Campbell Hall
Brandon Rechsteiner - Etowah
Jackson Shelstad - West Linn
Dedan Thomas Jr. - Liberty
Ja'Kobe Walter - Link
Isaiah Watts - South Kent
Simeon Wilcher - Roselle Catholic
Money Williams - Oakland
Some current and former pros were also in attendance, including Ochai Agbaji, Mikal Bridges, Tim Frazier, Chris Kaman, CJ McCollum, Anfernee Simons, and Matisse Thybulle, among others.
Phil and Dame talked to our entire group (players and staff) to set the tone that first morning. Subsequently, expectations were set. If you aren't serious and willing to challenge yourself and strive for excellence, you don't belong at Formula Zero.
The following days consisted of full schedules with a healthy balance of inspiring lessons on and off the court.
On the court, the players competed hard with Phil, Dame, and the coaching staff, "pouring" knowledge into the players while instilling intense discipline. There was no nonsense at Formula Zero. A few examples are that phones weren't allowed to be used on the bus, there was absolutely no goofing around in the gym, and if you didn't give 110% at all times, you would hear about it, sternly.
Off the court, former NFL player, renowned speaker, and author Trent Shelton was just one of the inspirational speakers who "poured" knowledge and wisdom into our group.
Fittingly, we finished the inaugural Formula Zero by watching clips of the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, which outlines a man's story of overcoming significant challenges to accomplish his lofty goals. A film that Dame regularly watched as a source of motivation while in college to assist in his own pursuit of happiness along his journey to now having become a likely hall-of-fame basketball player.
So, what is Formula Zero, exactly? Here is how I would sum it up:
A community (not a camp) of talented, not always the most talented, but most importantly, like-minded basketball people using "The Formula" to maximize their potential and strive for excellence.
And what is The Formula? To put it simply:
Character. Hard Work. Accountability.