Pat Riley, legendary coach of the “Showtime” Lakers once said, “great teamwork is the only way we create the breakthroughs that define our careers.” When thinking about what all the great teams have in common I came to the conclusion that teamwork, communication, and great leadership are all the attributes great teams shared. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re talking about, all the great teams have all those traits in common. The ability to play together, function as a team, and work towards a common goal is what teamwork is all about. The ability to speak to your team-mates and coaches in a way that lets everyone understand each other better and leads to the ability to support each other is what communication embodies. A player or players who can be counted on to lead through example or vocally is what great leadership encompasses. These things have to be present in team and it applies to both offense and defense. If a team has great teamwork and great communication on offense, but not on defense then they will ultimately lose to team that will outscore them and vice versa. The difference between a good team and a great team is that a great team will consistently and passionately have these three attributes happening on a daily basis on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
There has always been the natural talent versus hard work debate in all aspects of society, but it’s predominantly heard when talking about sports. As a basketball coach I have frequently thought about this over the years from a basketball perspective. Obviously the ideal situation is to have a team full of athletes who are naturally talented AND hard working. Not only would that be a winning combination, but that would be the perfect combination. However, if I had to choose one I would definitely have to lean more towards a group of guys that work hard. Although you can’t teach natural talent, I believe that deficiency can almost be made up for through hard work. I say almost because ultimately I believe there are some things that an athlete cannot learn regardless of how hard they work for it. With that said, I would still take a group of hard working guys over naturally talented guys because it would be a more rewarding process. Watching these types of athletes grow and develop is something that would not be possible without the hard working approach that the naturally talented individuals lack. I’m a firm believer that in sports you’ll only get back the amount you’re willing to put in so if you work hard and dedicate yourself to it you’re bound to get back a lot whether it’s in the form of skills or experiences.
I often get asked the question, “which defense do you think is better…man to man or zone?” It’s a rather interesting question because both types of defenses have their ups and downs, but if I had to choose one I’d have to choose man to man. The reason is simple. Man to man defense is the essence of basketball defense. When basketball was in it’s early years back in the late 1800s and early 1900s there was no such thing as zone defense. It was all about guarding an opposing player and making sure that person didn’t score. In my personal opinion with man to man defense the game becomes a lot more intimate and “in your face” so to speak. Having to follow your man around, fighting through screens, and mostly likely having that person guard you when you’re playing offense…that’s what it’s all about. Zone defenses definitely have their benefits like forcing shooters to shoot jump shots, being able to trap and double team the ball handler, and conserving energy since it’s not as physically demanding, but all those things don’t capture the essence of basketball defense. So the next time someone asks me that question I’ll have an answer ready because it’s all about the essence.
When it comes to the greatest NBA teams very few would argue against the “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980’s. With names like Magic, Worthy, and Abdul-Jabbar this Laker team definitely made it’s mark as not just one of the greatest dynasties, but also as one of the most entertaining teams to watch in NBA history. Defensively they were good as a team, but what they were really known for was their offense. With Magic Johnson’s uncanny ability to find his teammates, Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s domination in the paint, and James Worthy’s knack of being in the right place at the right time, this team put points up on the board and they did it with ease. With 5 NBA titles in a span of 10 years this team was utterly dominant during their time. They got the nickname of “Showtime” because of their fast paced playing style and entertaining fast breaks that were usually led by Magic and his creative passing ability. Their open court style was their trademark and fast breaks were something that was expected when you saw them play. Although there have been many great teams and dynasties in NBA history none were as entertaining as the “Showtime” Lakers.
If you think about names associated with basketball there are a couple of names that automatically pop into your head. Jordan, Magic, Bird, Wilt, and Russell are players that even the most casual of basketball fans know of. However, I’m willing to bet that another name is a part of that list too. That name is Kobe. No, not the type of meat or Japanese city, but the man basketball fans have nicknamed “The Black Mamba” which is fitting because it’s one of the deadliest and fastest snakes in the world. Kobe Bryant is arguably the best shooting guard / small forward hybrid in basketball history. His 6’6″ frame makes him no smurf in the paint, but his quickness and shooting touch makes him right at home on the perimeter as well. With one of the sweetest fade-away jump shots in the game and complete skill set it’s no wonder people compare him to Michael Jordan, arguably the best player in NBA history. His dribbling, shooting, and jumping ability are top class, but perhaps his biggest asset or best attribute is his tenacious competitiveness. He is no doubt the vocal leader of the Los Angeles Lakers and has led his team to several NBA championships. Known for his cold blooded nature and venomous ability to make shots in pressure situations, Kobe Bryant’s nickname “The Black Mamba” suits him quite well.