When an opportunity arose to head to the United States to see how the best athletes in the world lead their lives on a day-to-day basis, it was a no-brainer.

WATCH THE FULL “HEART OF CHAMPIONS” DOCUMENTARY HERE

As part of the Hype Tours program, I was able to meet with some of basketball’s megastars in the NBA, examine their lifestyle, preparation, recovery as well as game-day in the midst of an 82-game regular season.

And to think our home-and-away AFL season is made of 22 games!

It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and there is so much I have brought back with me upon my return to Australia in time for what promises to be a gruelling 2017-18 pre-season.

It was the 30 minutes with NBA Finals MVP, Kevin Durant which I’ll never forget.

That was awesome. I hung on to every word.

There were a couple of points he made which truly resonated with me though.

For him, switching off from the game of basketball is so important.

KD made mention that when he gets home, the hardwood is the furthest thing from his mind.

He appreciates the separation and the disconnect.

Because he does, when it is time to step back on the court for training, conditioning or game-day, he says he’s full of energy and wants to be there.

AFL star midfielder Tom Mitchell meets NBA megastar Kevin Durant during a recent visit to the United States.
AFL midfielder Tom Mitchell meets NBA megastar Kevin Durant during a recent visit to the United States.

He does everything he can to cherish his love for the game. Even if that means stepping away from it at times.

As KD pressed, as elite athletes in our chosen sport we are living out our childhood dreams, so we should consider ourselves lucky.

Quite simply – don’t take it for granted was his message.

During the meet-and-greet, I had been so eager to ask KD how he has been able to maintain such a high level of performance over such a long period of time.

Surely it must take its toll mentally, having to get up for every game.

Interestedly, Kevin said it becomes habit in the end, and that he sets himself little challenges within weeks, and months, to keep himself engaged in the process of winning championships.

Whether it’s a 30 day diet challenge, or hitting a certain number of jump shots at training, he does whatever he can to keep himself mentally focused at all times.

I say “interestingly” because it was the exact same advice I had just been given by another athlete on the tour – he is probably the closest to Kevin Durant or a Lebron James the AFL has seen in the modern era.

That athlete being Gary Ablett.

Exactly what KD was telling me, were the same words that Gaz shared with me a couple of days prior in Los Angeles.

Gaz was actually my footy idol growing up – and while I have always considered him to be the best football player, I now know he is an even better person than the athlete I admired for so long.

And for those who know Gary, that’s saying something!

Especially when he is kind of good at playing with the Sherrin.

Just the way he carries himself in his life, with his generosity and kindness, but also his habits from diet to training – he’s in a league of his own.

I had a chance to train with him a few times overseas, and just to see how he builds and complements his training application to his lifestyle, it’s something to behold.

Personally, that was another aspect of the trip I appreciated, just to pick his brain with certain things.

He’s the best AFL player to ever play so that was a highlight in itself.

AFL midfielders Gary Ablett & Tom Mitchell had an opportunity to meet some of basketball's biggest stars including 2x NBA champion Steph Curry.
AFL midfielders Gary Ablett & Tom Mitchell had an opportunity to meet some of basketball’s biggest stars including 2x NBA champion Steph Curry.