Heart of a Champion

By Ryan McNeill

Every team in the NBA is full of gifted basketball players. Players who can soar through the air with the grace of an gymnast, can nail three pointers with the accuracy of a professional marksman and players who will dive on the court without fear of getting raspberries just to corral a loose ball.

What separates a normal NBA team from a Championship team? The ability, or unfortunately in some cases the inability, to play together as one cohesive unit.

David Robinson summed it up perfectly when he talked about the need to play with one goal in mind when he told reporters that, “NBA Championship teams have something in common: they play with one goal in mind. Each player contributes his own efforts and gifts so that the greater goal – winning – can be reached. Player’s who seek their own glory at the sacrifice of the team’s glory drive the team away from success. So it is with life. The goal is not our own glory. In fact, trying to make life ‘all about us’ pushes happiness farther out of reach.”

Chris Webber claims to have that desire, yet he is still complaining about the need for more playing time and touches within the 76ers offense. How does one player’s playing time effect a team’s playoff or Championship desires? If Webber were able to step back and look at the bigger picture he would realize he has reduced playing time in Philly right now because he hasn’t learned the offensive and defensive sets that Maurice Cheeks wants his players to use.

Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady asked to be traded away from their former franchises because they wanted to win. However, I doubt that Carter or McGrady will ever be on a Championship team due to the fact that they lack the testicular fortitude to play through injuries or do what a team needs to win games. They are happy lacing up their kicks, leading their team in scoring and then collecting a cheque for their endorsement deals.

Robinson’s former team, the San Antonio Spurs, embody his concept of team play to perfection, and their two Championships in the past four seasons proves this. They have a superstar on their roster in Tim Duncan that is willing to defer to other players and play reduced minutes during the regular season so that he is fresh for the playoffs. Instead of being focused on things like leading the league in rebounding or scoring he is content with doing what the teams needs him to do so that they can win a Championship. The team has All-Star caliber players in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili who are willing to defer to the franchise player in the clutch without whimpering about needing more plays run for them. The rest of the roster is full of players like Matt Bonner, Bruce Bowen, Michael Finely, Eric Williams and Brent Barry who know their role on the team and are happy to fill it.

The Detroit Pistons won a Championship two seasons ago by playing team basketball. Ben Wallace was comfortable being an intimidating force on the glass and blocking shots without needing a lot of looks at the basket, Rip Hamilton and Chauncy Billups took the majority of the team’s shots while Rasheed Wallace adapted his me-first game to fit into Detroit’s defensive and offensive sets. The result was a team that knew their role and flourished.

There have been numerous debates around water coolers and on basketball courts across the country about whether the Spurs, Heat, Pistons, Mavericks or Suns will win the Championship this spring. It won’t be the highest scoring team, it won’t be the team that gets “hot” at the right team, it will be the team that finds it’s identity as a team. Whichever team selfishly passes the rock, dives for loose balls and has players who know their role on a team will flourish come playoff time.

Come playoff team this June, may the best team win.

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3 thoughts on “Heart of a Champion

  1. Great article. I really hope this is the case, cause I’d argue that the Heat didn’t fit the bill at all. They were definitely one of those teams that got “hot” at the right time.

  2. Like Seth said, How can you say this after we watched the Heat i.e. Dwayne Wade essentially single-handedly beat the Dallas Mavericks in the finals? The Maverick were a team that really had an identity under Avery Johnson before they fell apart mainly due to Dwayne Wade’s extraordinary ability (and penchant for drawing fouls).

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