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Single-mindedness makes the game

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Gary Boren is a Dallas dealmaker. He also happens to be an investment banker who teaches free-throwing to professional basketball players.

He’s never played an organized game of basketball, and he wasn’t even a fan until the NBA brought the Mavericks to town in 1980. He bought season tickets to entertain clients and watched amazing players flub their free throws game after game.

Shotmaking or dealmaking—when Boren sees a problem, he wants a solution.

So early in the ’90s, he started going to the gym and trying free throws to “see if I could figure out what the deal was. I was naive enough to think, ‘I’ll see what I can do about fixing this.’ ”

Today, a worn basketball sits in his office. Boren single-mindedly attempted to master the art of free throws that year, skipping only five days in 13 months. Every day, he tried to make 500 shots. Some days it took 90 minutes and 750 throws. “That’s what a ball looks like after 300,000 shots,” he says. He also wore out two nets.

Boren read every book on the subject, including master’s theses. He studied videos. He taped himself. He painted part of the ball black so he could watch rotations. He ran so he’d be tired, simulating late-game play.

About halfway through the year, he usually could hit 70 in a row. Then he got a coach who filled the gaps in his self-education. The result: a handbook called Basketball Shooting and a teaching system he sold to college and NBA teams. The first team he worked with became the most improved in free throws after a year.

One of Boren’s tougher pupils is the Mavericks’ DeSagana Diop, a 7-foot backup center from Senegal. In practice, Diop sinks free throws at close to 85%. In games, he shoots 55%. He overthinks it. Boren tells him to relax and rely on practice and muscle memory.

“Most people think free-throw shooting is psychological, but that’s not true,” Boren says. “It’s almost all mechanics.”

Lesson: Boren’s free-throw education proves that if you chase something with maniacal intent, the result that often seems inevitable, often is inevitable.

—Adapted from “Bank Shot,” Scott Eden, Dealmaker.

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