May 10, 2012
On May 7, 2002, Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson held a news conference about practice.
“We’re sitting here, and I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re talking about practice … not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice … it’s funny to me too, hey it’s strange to me too, but we’re talking about practice man, we’re not even talking about the game, when it actually matters, we’re talking about practice.”
If you didn’t catch the interview at the time or the many replays on sports stations this week commemorating its tenth anniversary, click here for a YouTube link that has received over 616,400 hits.
Almost exactly a decade later, on Sunday, May 6, at the final Family Concert of LACO’s 2011-12 season at the Alex Theatre, the topic of practice came up again, this time in Q&A with talented young pianist Ray Ushikubo. At ten years old, Ushikubo is the same age as Iverson’s famous rant.
“How long have you been playing the piano?” asks one child from the audience. “Five years,” answers Ushikubo as assuredly as he played the first movement from Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 5 with the Orchestra. A collective sigh ripples through the audience.
“How did you get so good so fast?” asks a second. “Practice,” answers Ushikubo, to more sighs and at least one audible groan.
“How long do you practice?” asks a third. It’s the logical next question, and there is a sharp collective intake of breath as every child, every mother, father, aspiring grandparent and doting aunt and uncle in the audience steels for the answer. “I practice three hours on the piano, three hours on the violin, and then I do homework for three hours. Every day.”
Gasps, some groans and then sustained applause. After all, we’ve just witnessed a superb performance by a very accomplished, confident, young boy who clearly had as much fun playing the concerto as we did listening to it. It takes talent, for sure, but if you want a career and success as a professional musician — or athlete –- then ironically, in the words of Allen Iverson, “We’re talking about practice.”