David Thorpe called me the other day, all excited. He was reading Jack McCallum's "Dream Team" and was delighted to discover one of his favorite words: "slog."

"We tend to think of a superstar's career as one long march into immortality," writes McCallum, in a section about Larry Bird, "but in fact, near the end it's usually characterized by a slow and sometimes painful slog toward the finish line."

This is a big part of what David Thorpe teaches his NBA clients, and it's something I find myself thinking about often. It goes something like this: It may appear that NBA games are won with big moments when everybody is looking -- dunking over people, blocking shots, hitting a momentous jumper. And once in a while that does happen. But the reality is that many more careers and games turn on getting things right in the millions of small moments when nobody is looking. The big moments will always dominate the Hollywood version of events. But in real life, if you want to do the most you can to get the best possible results, it's a long game of putting together one solid day of training after another.

You want to know who's going to have the best NBA career? You could do worse than to simply figure out who puts in the most work to prepare.

Like when, as McCallum describes, Larry Bird would get up at 5 a.m. every day of the summer to work out somewhere in Indiana. Training to succeed in the NBA isn't about a highlight or two. It's a decades-long marathon, made mostly of work.