At Artesia High School, an L.A.-area basketball powerhouse, coach Scott Pera tried to bring Harden's fitness in line with his talent and ambition.

Does this mean the coach wants to make him not only strong but also talented and ambitious in a balancing manner. This is my guess.

Or could this mean the coach wants him to be suitable for any task with talent and ambition as well?

Source: http://time.com/4672996/james-harden-rule-nba/

  • 1
    In the pattern is "to bring {X} in line with {Y}", Y remains unchanged and X is changed relative to Y. We need to bring our spending in line with our income = we need to change our spending habits. So your use of not only has it backwards. It should be: The coach wanted to see that he was not only talented and ambitious but became physically fit.
    – TimR
    Apr 25, 2017 at 12:13

2 Answers 2


From the previous paragraph:

Growing up, Harden was a bit chubby and asthmatic, and launched the ball from his hip. "My shot was quite blockable," Harden says. But he was a natural scorer who loved the game and remained convinced he would play it for a living. "He carried around a basketball as if it was his job," says Harden's older brother, Akili Roberson. "I was like, 'Dude, do you know how many people play in the NBA?'" When Harden was in ninth grade, he left a note for his mother. "Could u leave me a couple of dollars?" Harden wrote. "P.S. Keep this paper. Imma be a star."

In other words, Harden's fitness level was low growing up. He was already very talented and ambitious. The coach wanted to align Harden's low fitness level with his high level of talent and ambition. He wanted to make Harden as fit as he was talented and ambitious.

  • "Chubby" is the keyword to understand it?
    – jack bang
    Apr 25, 2017 at 8:36
  • Yes, and asthmatic. It means he suffered from asthma.
    – Em.
    Apr 25, 2017 at 8:38

Your question seems to be: what is "fitness" used to mean? But you also seem to be misunderstanding what "bring [something] in line with [something]" means.

"To bring something/someone into line with something/someone else" is an idiom which means that the first thing is being raised to the standard of the second thing.

Cambridge Dictionary gives the definition as

to force someone or something to be similar or of the same standard as someone or something else

I think "force" might be too strong a word, as, in the case of your example, it can often be positive and nurturing rather than forceful.

coach Scott Pera tried to bring Harden's fitness in line with his talent and ambition

In your example, Harden already has high talent and ambition, and the coach is raising Harden's fitness to match them. The meaning of the sentence is that the coach is raising Harden's fitness so that it becomes of as high a quality as his already impressive talent and ambition.

In this case, fitness is almost certainly referring to cardiorespiratory fitness. This is the most common meaning of the word especially in everyday speech, and in this case in particular is supported by a previous statement in your source article:

Growing up, Harden was a bit chubby and asthmatic

Being chubby and asthmatic will negatively impact cardiorespiratory fitness, but not necessarily strength.

"Fitness" on its own is usually used to mean cardiorespiratory fitness. In general English usage, an endurance runner would be the first thing someone would think of when "fitness" is mentioned.

It's more unusual, but not incorrect, to use "fitness" to refer to other physical capabilities. Strongmen and powerlifters could be considered fit even though they may not have good cardiovascular endurance. People who get around with their bodies and can perform hard physical work are often considered fit.

It is normally only in technical contexts that "fitness" is used to refer to "suitability to the environment". Like in evolutionary science, a fitter animal will have more offspring, and homo sapiens turned out to be fitter than most not because of physical capability but because of our intelligence. It's rare to see people use this meaning of the word in general English, although of course English also has the idiom "fit for the job" which means well-suited for the job.

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