Life Lessons from the NBA Finals
Another NBA season has come and gone. The Golden State Warriors prevailed for the second time in three (3) seasons, and were crowned champions. For all my sports fans out there, share with us some valuable life lessons from the recently concluded NBA Finals.(Walk with us through another guest post from my sports-loving and obviously wise brother)
The Dubs, as the team is popularly called, prevailed over the Lebron James and Kyrie Irving led Cleveland Cavaliers, four (4) games to one (1). Kevin Durant was awarded the trophy for being the most valuable player (MVP) of the finals. The Warriors ended with a post season record of 16 – 1.
Never be afraid to take on the giants in your life
Numerous accolades and superlatives were accorded to Durant. He competed on a fairly even basis with King James, the league’s marquee player (regarded by many as the best player on the planet), to lead the Golden State Warriors to victory. For KD35, it was a personal triumph. He bore the brunt of criticism from past and present players, as well as spectators, for ‘joining a seventy three (73) win team.’ How could the NBA’s second best player commit such a faux pas! They called him ‘soft’, ‘cupcake’… even accused him of ‘hopping on a bandwagon.’
‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’, when the Warriors needed leadership, KD stood tallest and was counted.
It takes a village
Despite the individual exploits of Durant and Steph Curry, the reigning MVP of the league, the raison d’etre for the team’s success is to be found in the deeply rooted ‘strength in numbers’ concept. The extremely unselfish nature of the team’s players, including its ‘world players’ demonstrated this. Let’s look at the this interesting statistic from the NBA finals; number of assists per game recorded for each team. The Warriors amassed thirty (30) assists per game compared to twenty two (22) for the Cavaliers. Caring is indeed sharing.
It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish
Let’s take a closer look at the Golden State roster. The nucleus of the team was acquired through the league’s lottery system or NBA draft as it is otherwise called. Steph Curry was selected with the seventh (7th) pick in the 2009 draft, Klay Thompson, eleventh (11th) in 2011 and Draymond Green, the lowly thirty fifth (35th) in 2012. All three honed their skills and talents through great work ethic and became repeat NBA All Stars.
For the 2016/2017 season, the team retooled via free agent acquisitions: Kevin Durant, a perennial all-star (who chose to swap Oklahoma City for the more urbane city of Oakland, California) and Zaza Pachulia, NBA journeyman whose previous tour of duty was with the Dallas Mavericks. The Warriors squad also includes NBA veterans such as Andre Iguodala, Sean Livingston, David West, Matt Barnes and Javale McGee, a group that made tremendous personal sacrifice to achieve the collective goal, winning a championship. The roster also includes up and coming players such as Ian Clark, Kevin Looney, Patrick McCaw, Damian Jones and James Michael McAdoo.
Focus on your game plan
The NBA finals provided riveting action. The television ratings told the story. The finals was the most watched version since 1998 (Source:Neilsen). The action was non-stop and enthralling, with the pendulum swinging from end to end. LBJ gave everything he had. Averaging a triple double for the series – attaining double digits in points (33.6), rebounds (12) and assists (10) was no mean feat. Kyrie was typically Kyrie (averaging 29.4 points per game), proving to be unstoppable during critical stretches.
Whilst the greater number of highlight reel-worthy plays belonged to the Cavaliers (due the degree of difficulty for shots made), Golden State had greater success moving the basketball around the perimeter resulting in more open shots attempted and made. The Warriors’ bench outscored the Cavaliers’ bench thirty (30) to twenty two (22), enabling greater periods of rest for the Golden State starters resulting in the Dubs players being much fresher towards the end of the game. LBJ and Kyrie averaged forty two (42) and forty (40) minutes per game respectively compared to KD ad Steph who logged thirty nine (39) and thirty seven (37) minutes respectively.
At end of the series, jubilation and unfettered joy filled the Oracle Arena, the Warriors’ fortress. (The Dubs were undefeated at home during their historic playoff run). The champagne flowed, celebratory cigars lit and confetti flowed down from above as the Dubs were again at the top of the mountain.
Success does not come overnight
The success of the Warriors did not take place overnight, it has been due to the hard work and thoughtful actions implemented to make the dream; the transformation of the once mediocre establishment into a championship winning franchise, a reality. Some of notable changes are as follows:-
- The purchase of majority ownership of the franchise by Joe Lacob in 2010;
- The hire of Bob Myers as Assistant GM in 2011 (promoted to GM in 2012);
- Appointment of Lakers legend Jerry West as Board Member;
- Replacement of Head Coach Mark Jackson with Steve Kerr;
- The continued selection of player personnel and coaching staff to fit the dream.
To achieve such dream as it is often said that the whole must be greater than the sum of the individual parts. When you dissect this success story, you can learn several valuable life lessons. These lessons have been brought to the fore in numerous interviews conducted with various members of team Golden State, i.e. the Players, Head Coach Steve Kerr, the General Manager Bob Myers and Owner Joe Lacob.
Watch the following interviews and you will see what I mean:-
Talent will only get you so far(There is no “I” in TEAM)
There is a collective drive by players to hone their skills through continued hard work, refusing to rely solely on God given talent. The team has worked hard to embed a culture within the organization that sees all players participating in all training sessions regardless of whether the sessions are mandatory or optional. Players are constantly in the gym, ensuring that their bodies are in optimal condition to manage the rigors of the regular season and the playoffs.
The players also spoke of the sacrifices made for the greater good of the team, the contribution of the veterans who acted as mentors for the younger players (both on and off the basketball court). It is apparent that each player within the team understands the importance of their role in the process and also appreciates the role and efforts of others.
The players also spoke highly of their employers, and highlighted team management’s role in setting the tone at the top, selecting the right personnel to blend with the required and established ethos and modus operandi of the Warriors.
The players commended the coaching staff for having excellent communication skills. Their impeccable ability to read and interpret situations, the ability to make changes as necessary was not lost on the. They instinctively try to meet each player at the point of need; knowing each individual’s trigger point and intended reaction. Aim being to get the desired reaction.
Build Synergies(Give praise where praise is due)
Head Coach’s Perspective
Coach Kerr spoke highly of each member of the team. The sacrifices made by key individuals in contributing to the collective success of the Warriors. For me the most endearing quality of the head coach was the fact that he always gave due recognition to the efforts of his team. At no point has he taken credit for team’s success. As a colleague put it
He was always self-deprecating, heaping praise on the team and the collection of talent at his disposal
He also highlighted the unselfish nature of his players as they worked hard to achieve the collective goal of retaining the Larry O’Brien trophy.
A believer in the strength in numbers concept, Coach Kerr spoke of his confidence in the abilities and talents of ALL his players. He related that the saying was not just a cliché but a practice. Instilling players with a sense of belief and belonging (the feeling of importance) is a critical part of their development. In times of need, and when it really counts, these players are able to effectively seize the moment. This was the case for Rookie Patrick McCaw who was given significant minutes in the decisive game five (5) victory. McCaw duly obliged with an invaluable contribution in the 129 – 120 victory.
Don’t be afraid to shine your light
General Manager’s Perspective
The team’s owner refers to the GM as a people person who loves basketball. I have watched two (2) interviews done by Bob Myers, post championship and whole-heartedly agree. These videos were what you would call must watch TV; captivating to the last second. So much so that I decided to share these videos with a few of my colleagues. The reactions say it all:
the guys knows each team and coaching staff member by name, talent, character/personality, contribution to team performance, everything!
Definitely an A grade leader for building and maintaining a winning team.
An unusual team manager and team, especially in today’s world of prima donnas. Obviously, they understand and work well together at winning as a team with everyone playing their part and respecting the others’ parts and supporting their hearts out!!!
If we adopted this caring approach, how good would our teams and lives be?
Success does not come by chance. It takes a vision, proper planning, careful attention to details and the selection of the required ingredients:
- Strategic management and leadership pulls it all together
- Collective ‘buy in’ of all involved is critical
- Individual sacrifice for the greater good
- Sense of belonging
- Common goals
- Measurable targets
- Continuous efforts aimed at excellence and improvement.
Read Also : Life Lessons from Super Bowl LI