Basketball is a beautiful team game. Any team that is going to play for championships or sustain success over a lengthy period of time understands the team has to take importance over the individual.
In my lifetime, I have seen many so-called “super teams” get assembled on paper and win the pre-season accolades and championships. I believe Dick Vitale once had a nickname for teams with great individual talent (or the perception of it). He called them “The All-Airport Team”— these were the tall, big, athletic-looking players who, if you saw walking through the airport, would make you think, “that must be a really good basketball player.”
But there is more to the game than looking the part. You have to be able to play. You have to have heart and toughness. You can have great individual talent, but if that talent doesn’t play as a team, it can get beat by less-talented individuals playing like a true team.
In the early 2000s, the Lakers acquired Hall-of-Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton to team up with Kobe and Shaq. Everyone wondered not if they would win the championship, but how many games it would take in the NBA Finals. Guess what? They got beat in five games by the starless Detroit Pistons who epitomized TEAM basketball.
A decade later, the Lakers acquired two-time MVP Steve Nash and dominant big-man Dwight Howard to go along with All-Stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. This was another super team that looked good on paper in the off-season but fizzled out in the first round.
The Philadelphia Eagles had an off-season for the ages a few years back that gained similar media and peer attraction but never amounted to anything of substance.
The list of teams could go on and on at all levels from high school to college to pro and across many sports.
Why do we continue to build these “super teams”? Take a look at the messaging in our current basketball landscape. Who is celebrated more—the team or the star player?
It probably started in the 80s when the NBA first marketed Magic vs. Bird and then Jordan took the throne of the marketing machine that is the NBA. All three of those guys were tremendous for growing the popularity of the game. People (myself included) loved watching them.
But we didn’t realize a shift was taking place. Younger generations of fans and players began to love the star more than the team.
We all love watching Steph Curry, LeBron James, Maya Moore, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is when the younger generations become influenced by messages they receive about star players and begin to think as they become stronger players, they also become bigger and more important than the team. It’s the responsibility of “the protectors of the game” to teach younger generations “it’s not about YOU, it’s about the TEAM.”
We Over Me
For teams to grow together and achieve collective success, there has to be a WE over ME mentality. If you want it to be about you, go play tennis, golf or another individual sport. That might be what is best for you and your personality. But if you are about the team, live it out.
There are four teams that stand out as the standard in team sports over the last 20 years: the Spurs, Patriots, Duke men’s basketball and UCONN women’s basketball. They have all had tremendous individual talent, but there are two other things that are also apparent in these programs.
- Coaches who get buy-in from their players in WE over ME.
- Star players humble enough to not let their ego ever become more important than the team (i.e. Tim Duncan, Tom Brady, Breanna Stewart).
THINK THE GAME
Join PGC Basketball and discover how to become a playmaker, lead your team, and run the show.
Tactics for WE over ME
Here are a few things any player or coach can do to help accomplish a WE over ME mentality.
- Be more concerned with your teammates both on and off the court than your stats or accolades.
- Honor and recognize the fact your individual accomplishments come from having great teammates and coaches.
- Keep the stars of the team in check. Don’t let the ego of an individual get bigger than the team.
Remember, the sum is often greater than the parts. I don’t want to get this twisted – you need really good players and individuals to achieve great team success. But individual talent alone, by itself or not working together, is empty. It takes a true TEAM to accomplish special things. “Go fast and go alone or go together and go far” couldn’t be more true in team sports.
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PGC Basketball provides intense, no-nonsense basketball training for players and coaches. Our basketball camps are designed to teach players of all positions to play smart basketball, be coaches on the court, and be leaders in practices, games and in everyday life.
We combine our unique PGC culture with a variety of teaching methods and learning environments to maximize the learning potential of those that attend our sessions. In addition to spending 6-7 hours on the court each day, lessons will be reinforced through classroom sessions and video analysis.
Our goal at PGC is to empower you with the tools to fulfill your basketball dreams, while also assisting you in experiencing the joy of the journey.