Sunday, February 26, 2012

There Is No "I" In Team

Recently (written in June, 2011) the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in the sixth game of a best of seven series to win the NBA Finals and hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in franchise history.   What made this championship series so intriguing wasn’t the fact that I now live in Dallas and was pulling for the home team.  It wasn’t that I was rooting against LeBron James as a former Clevelander who thought his departure from the city was tastelessly handled.  It wasn’t because I was lucky enough to be on the floor at yet another NBA Finals as consultant to the National Basketball Association.  Nope, it wasn’t any of these reasons.
The reason so many people, along with myself, were fixated by this series was they all wanted to see if Miami could "buy" (rather than build) a championship. Thankfully, the collective sigh of relief came as the Mavs beat up on the Heat in Game 6 — revealing the much anticipated answer. No, you cannot "buy" a championship.

As the underdog, Dallas acted like professionals. Even Mark Cuban, the outspoken owner of the Mavs refrained from his usual pot shot remarks during the entire Playoff run.  Dirk Nowitzki, the star player on the team was sick with a 102 degree temperature in Game 4, but he never complained – he got out there and played his heart out. The team worked together, without fanfare I might add, to beat what many were calling the ultimate dream-team of the chosen-ones.
(Here’s a picture I took of LeBron while holding a piece of
audio equipment during an interview after winning
Game 3…you can see my upside down face at the
top of the photo.)

On the other hand, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James were paid outrageous sums of money to be assembled in an effort to create a super-human team that on paper, simply could not be beat. They celebrated every small victory, every step of the way. They complained to the refs every time they thought they didn't get a certain call. They acted like school children who had never been in a playoff game before. All that and for what? Today, they are celebrating their accomplishment of being second-best.

Don’t get me wrong; Dwayne, Chris, and LeBron are great players.  They will win a championship some day, I am certain of that. However, we all have a reprieve from it happening the first year they were assembled in a "bought and paid for" fashion.  Look at it this way, even though LeBron scored a convened "triple double" (more than 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists) in Game 5, his team still lost. Some say LeBron is one of the best to play the game. However, to help keep it in perspective, LeBron doesn’t have a single championship ring.  Michael Jordan has 6!  

I’ve said it over and over again, I would much rather work with a team of very good players, like the Mavs, rather than a team of super stars, like the Heat.  There may be “I” in the middle of the word win, but “I” does not belong in the word team.  It’s the team as a whole, not the individual, who is responsible for winning.  Otherwise, LeBron would have several championship rings by now.

One last thing to take away from this series is while it is great to celebrate success, true professionals act as if they have been there before. They don’t make a big deal out of anything less than the championship. They don't talk trash. They WIN!

Remember, you can have great success in life if you constantly contribute your best to the team and act like you’ve been there before.

It's the Little Things That Win Championships

Last night (written in October, 2010) the National League Champion San Francisco Giants beat the American League Champion Texas Rangers in a best of seven series to become the 2010 World Series champions.  The best team won, although, living in the Dallas area, I was pulling for the Rangers.

What you may not know about me is I have the privilege of working with the major sports leagues in my spare time (I'll save that story for another blog.)  Last night I had the honor of preparing the Commissioner's Trophy before it was awarded to the World Champion Giants.  During events like this I get an opportunity to talk one on one to the players, coaches and owners of many sports franchises.

Over the past two decades it is funny how similar the message is from these people who reach the pinnacle of their profession.  Many begin by thanking God for giving them the talent to do what they do.  Most go on to say that everything they've done since they were a kid lead them to this.  Then, almost everyone, can't believe how lucky they are to have success.

Are the owners, coaches and players talented, yes.  But aren't all of the owners, coaches and players at the major league level equally as talented, yes.  So what really sets them apart?  Luck?

Let me put it another way, the difference between being in the minor leagues and major leagues is such a small difference.  Think about this, hitting is all about a batting average.  At a .250 batting average you are pretty good, but not a regular major league player.  However at a lifetime .300 average you are likely to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  What does that really mean?  Well, if at 20 plate appearances you get just one more hit than the next guy, you'll be in the Hall of Fame.  1 in 20.  Think about it.

Don't sit on the bench and watch others contribute.  Just think, if you perform just one more time out of 20, perhaps you could be in the Hall of Fame someday.