If the title was a bit dramatic – I apologize, but I tried to create a feeling of real dependency – one that in this case I feel cannot be overemphasized.   I also apologize for having another post with reference and illustrations from sporting events – I just can’t help myself.

There are many athletes with nicknames, and some of them are awesome.  Some of them are also horrible – and some of them are not even worth considering because they either aren’t nicknames (T-Rod, A-Rod, etc. are not nicknames – they are just shortened versions of their real names) or these supposed nicknames were as Jim Rome puts it ‘self glossed’ which is jungle way of saying ‘you can’t give yourself a nickname – that’s just not how it works’.    Some of the great nicknames throughout history are known – and some not so much.  But there is one nickname that might be the best of all – ‘The Big Fundamental’.  I don’t know where or when Timothy Theodore Duncan was first called ‘the big fundamental’ but it fits and he’s seen some awesome results.  He is a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP, and was the NBA rookie of the year.  He is a 14-time NBA All-Star, and the only player to be selected to both the All-NBA and the All-Defensive teams during each of his first 13 seasons – and I’m not aware of a single endorsement deal of his. Let that sink in.

Part of why I like his nickname so much is that it so complimentary.  Others (especially those who have given themselves nicknames) probably think his nickname is ‘lame’ and highlights his lack of flash or show – which is precisely why it’s such a compliment – especially to him.  I guarantee you he loves this nickname.  He’ll probably never tell you as much or even bring it up – but he loves it.  He loves it because that he knows the value of and has seen the result of hard work continually centered in the basic fundamental core essentials.  He probably spends 95% of his time working on the ‘plain and simple’ things like footwork, positioning, dribbling, outlet passes, rebounding, etc. instead of the ‘strong and mighty’ things like dunking, crossovers, taunting gestures or cute hand signals to be practiced each time a relatively good play is made.  In short – he paid attention to, saw the benefit of, and grew to love the ‘weak and simple things’ of the basketball world that ‘brought great things to pass’ and ‘confounded the wise’ or in Tim’s case – the other teams.  They cannot figure out how and why the Spurs keep winning – despite their small market status, their lack of a flashy star, and their consistent use of ‘small and simple things’ like the old fashioned pick and roll.  I realize Greg Popovich has a lot do to with this – but his nickname isn’t the big fundamental so he isn’t the focus here.

You’d think in the NBA that most people would have a pretty good handle the fundamentals by now – and most of them do okay, but Tim Duncan has mastered the basics.  He doesn’t keep going ‘back to the basics’ when things get crazy or when they lose a few games – he just doesn’t stray from them.  They are who he is.  They are what he is.  They have become his identity and his purpose and his love.  So much so that they have started to exude from his person.  He sweats fundamentals.  He sneezes and fundamental drills come out.  He cries footwork drills.  He dreams about the three-man weave while mapping out his next bank shot.  He loves them because he knows that they are the foundation of greater things and that nothing great can last without a solid foundation.

If we think of his nickname in a spiritual sense (likening basketball to spirituality and eternal progression in real life) – what things can we work on, and how can we think in order to become like ‘the big fundamental’?  The answer is the same for all of us – it’s an unwavering allegiance to, understanding of, and consistent practice in the gospel basic fundamental core essentials.  These are the core doctrines and principles that we learn when we are young but tend to overlook (or assume we know all about) when we get older.  If we learned everything about basketball fundamentals while we were in Jr. Jazz – we might be in trouble.  And if we are relying on our primary aged recollection of the fundamentals –  we might be in trouble.

With this in mind, these fundamentals are often looked at or even referred to (by others) as ‘weak and simple things’, and nobody likes to think of him or herself as weak and simple, and certainly nobody likes to be ‘complimented’ in a way that highlights or ‘reinforces’ their weak and simple characteristics or their repeated use of and reliance upon them.  But if we can get to the point where we really love the fundamentals, we can love that nickname or that ‘compliment’ as it’s applied to us.  We can truly relish the basics and start to see the ‘weak things become strong’ even if our opponents and seemingly all the other players around us are focused on more advanced topics or have seemingly moved on to ‘gospel calculus’ instead of ‘gospel addition and subtraction’.

This is especially true when we realize how much work still needs to be done, how hard and long that work will be, how slowly we seem to be progressing towards the ultimate goal, how daunting our opponent is, and how quickly and repeatedly he claims his powers and ability as ‘great’.  We all like to think we are ‘strong and mighty’ and I emphatically include myself in this category – since I need to remember this as evidenced by the topics I’ve chosen to write on in my last few posts (offense vs. defense, competition, power, etc.) – but the fact is that the answers (to all the questions that matter) are ‘always in the doctrines and principles of the gospel’ (See Elder Bednar’s Increase in Learning book).

Perhaps we often overlook the fundamentals and the ‘weak and simple things’ because we live in the age of instant gratification and quick results.  We tend to believe in and rely on results – and when the results aren’t amazing and mammoth-sized after 16 seconds – we give up or move on to the next promise of results because we don’t think we have time to develop patience or work to help ‘weak things to become strong’ (See Ether 12:27).  But it may also because we tend to believe way too much in our perception, what our mortal eyes are able to see, or what our mortal brains process based on the outward appearance of strength instead of strength ‘as it really is’ (See Jacob 4).

The point I am trying to make is that true power and true strength (real greatness) often do not come dressed up the way most people think they do.  They come disguised as weakness and are further developed and solidified by the repeated performance of very simple things – or in other words, they come dressed up as basic fundamentals.   This process (the repeated performance of weak and simple things, or the very nature of weak and simple things themselves) in many cases turns out to be very irritating to the wise and powerful people, groups, and organizations that claim to have all the answers.   It has always been this way, and it will always be this way, because God said it more than once (in 3 different books by way of 3 different prophets).  He said in Alma 37:6, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise”.  He said in 1 Cor. 1:27 “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty”, and in the D&C he has said “I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit” (D&C 35:13), and “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones” (D&C 1:19).

So what are the weak and simple things (fundamentals) that confound the wise?  How about some things that are so weak and simple (often termed as ‘old fashioned’ or ‘out of style’ that even our primary aged kids (4 and 5 and 6 year olds) understand but the ‘wise’ (as termed by the world) in large part throw aside as unnecessary, childish, or as a certain someone termed them ‘lame’.  Things like prayer being a very real communication with God and that the habit of praying regularly builds strength.  Things like reading scriptures to grow in spirituality.  Things like 14-year-old boys with no formal education being used to restore the greatest kingdom ever.  Things like getting out of debt and staying out of debt. Things like food storage.  Things like simple obedience.  Things like serving other people before us.  Things like going to church and worshiping on Sunday instead of seeking for entertainment.  Things like home teaching.  Things like genealogy.  Things like temple attendance.  Things like living prophets.  Things like faith.  Things live love.  Things like self-control and discipline.  Things like tithing.  Things like being nice and thoughtful and patient and kind – even when nobody else seems to be.  Things like assisting other people and helping them reach their goals instead of spending so much time and effort in what we ourselves want.  Things like placing more value in people that in things.  Weak and Simple things like that.

Before we think of this as counter-intuitive and contrary to reality (weak and simple things being true power) let’s remind ourselves that Tim Duncan and his Spurs are five-time champs AND “there are many called, but few are chosen…(they are not chosen) because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson…that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness…when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves, the Spirit of the Lord is grieved…he is left unto himself…to fight against God” (good luck in that fight)….”no power or influence can or ought to be maintained…only by [note the weak and simple things that are listed] persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile…let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men…and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, then shall they confidence wax strong in the presence of God”.  That might be the epitome of using weak and simple fundamentals to bring great and mighty things to pass.