If you live under the assumption all professional athletes are competitive, you're fooling yourself.
If you believe that just because a person is talented enough to reach the highest levels of his or her chosen sport, they burn with a desire to win at any cost, you're sadly mistaken.
If you figure every NFL player loves football, every Major League Baseball player loves the grand old game or that inside every NBA player beats the heart of a gym rat, you're as wrong as chocolate cake and grape juice.
Sorry if I shattered any illusions just now, but it's true. A guy may grow up to be 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds and find his way onto an NBA roster, but that doesn't always mean basketball is his passion.
Years ago I knew a guy who was tall, strong and possessed with a powerful left arm. He was funneled into baseball at an early age and pegged as a future big league pitcher. But the truth was, he didn't really like the game all that much and losing ballgames didn't chew him up inside like it did some of his teammates.
I also knew a football player with size, speed, strength and many other natural gifts. He played the game because he was expected to, but unfortunately, deep down he never really saw himself as a football player.
Having covered the NBA for seven-plus seasons, I've come to realize not every player is in it for the pure love of the game. Granted, many do. But others do it because they can and that's what has always been expected. Still others do it for the fame and, of course, the money.
I've also learned there's much more to being a great player than simply possessing great athletic ability. In fact, athleticism isn't even the most important tool to have.
Drive, determination and a dogged desire to work mean much more.
Know what else helps a lot? An obsessive, almost pathological, need to not only compete, but win.
The other day I heard a story about Utah Jazz point guard Earl Watson that illustrates just what I mean.
See, at 33 years old, Watson is one of the oldest guys on the roster. Comparatively speaking, he's also one of the Jazz's least athletic players. But as the story goes, during a practice session last Thursday -- the day after a blowout loss to Golden State -- his competitive side began to get the better of him.
Still fuming over the previous night's loss, Watson was pretty chapped by the time practice rolled around the next morning. Word is, after his team lost a scrimmage game he refused to call it quits and instead continued to challenge the opposing group.
"He wanted to check it up again when practice was (over)," teammate Marvin Williams said, meaning Watson was tossing the ball back to the other team, begging to play a few more points. "He wanted to check it up again. Coach had to call it off."
Watson admitted he's not exactly Miss Manners out there on the practice floor, especially the day after a loss.
"I'm the worst, man. I'm the worst," he said. "I've gotten better over time."
Watson casually mentioned that Hall of Famer Jerry West, also known as the silhouette of the famous NBA logo, once helped him lighten up.
Apparently back when Watson was playing for the Memphis Grizzlies and West was their director of basketball operations, the two had a conversation about chilling out in practice.
"He told me I can't continue to be the way I used to be, especially when I was younger," Watson explained. "But then I told him he's exactly the same way and he just started laughing at me."
Now that's a great story. In no way do Watson and West compare in terms of sheer ability, after all, the NBA's not going to remake its logo with Earl's image anytime soon. But it does offer at least a small glimpse into the way he's wired.
It let me know that, whatever the stakes or wherever the setting, I wouldn't mind having Earl Watson on my team.