Coming into every NBA season, there are two common narratives about players returning from the offseason: they’re in the best shape of their lives or they have added several pounds of muscle.
The latter is a common refrain for rookies and young players. Adding muscle is necessary for both ends of the floor as they play against older, stronger veterans in the league. Players routinely bulk up in the offseason as they enter the primes of their careers.
In discussing Andrew Wiggins’ potential with CBS’s Zach Harper, David Thorpe, an ESPN NBA analyst and executive director for the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Florida, said adding muscle can actually be detrimental to players.
First, Thorpe mentions how adding too much muscle would hurt Wiggins’ development, and then he expands the picture to the rest of the NBA:
“It would be a gigantic, enormous, criminal mistake if he were to bulk up. I believe, and I believe over the next 10 years we’ll see it more, that’s one of the reasons why guys get hurt so much more. Their skeletons are made to hold a certain body type. Bone density is different with every player. There’s a combination there of your bones and your muscles that you need to respect. He is this incredible athlete that needs to look like that at all times.”
Thorpe continues his thought, saying Wiggins will “develop strength anyway over time.”
Thorpe’s latter point certainly rings true to many young players who enter the NBA. Players frequently enter the NBA at 19, 20, and 21 years old, not fully in their athletic prime. Though weightlifting is certainly a necessary part of training and strength is vital to the game, many of them are still growing into their bodies. Like Wiggins, they will develop strength as they mature.
In recent cases, older players have been losing weight to reduce the wear-and-tear on their bodies and extend their playing days. LeBron James famously lost weight this summer, as did other stars like Carmelo Anthony.
The movement of losing weight won’t stop many players from adding several pounds of muscle during their offseasons — nor should it — but it will be interesting to monitor in young, upcoming players, who trainers believe may benefit from their smaller frames.
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