Team chemistry is key to any team’s success, many elements create the unique team chemistry formula but there are few elements that squarely exemplify what makes a successful team. Talent is a given, but that isn’t the only thing that can make a team successful, the key element at least in my opinion is how selfless those the individuals in that team are? how often do they celebrate each other’s successes? how frequently do they promote or evangelize each other? finally how willing are they to pick each other up when things are not going well? The perfect example of this are the current Golden State Warriors, even though they lost the 2016 NBA title, they exemplify that culture.
On the other hand were the early 2000’s Portland Trail Blazers infamously known as Portland “Jail” Blazers. The 2000/2001 Trail Blazers were unarguably loaded, Rasheed Wallace (highly talented with a notorious temper), Scottie Pippen (The Scottie Pippen), Brian Grant (unselfish player bar none, who the year before had been the floor leader for the Trail Blazers), Steve Smith (another unselfish player and experienced player, who in his prime was Atlanta Hawks floor leader), Arvydas Sabonis and the list goes on. With all the unselfish players on the team they still were a bit dysfunctional, with bickering about playing time rather than focusing on what mattered most. This team nearly got to the cusp of NBA finals, when they lost or better yet choked away a 15 point lead with 7 minutes to go to the Phil Jackson lead Los Angeles Lakers in the Game 7 of Western Conference finals.
The next season (2001/2002), the season of reckoning, is when as with any team that is nearly there but not quite. Bob Whitsitt, the GM for the Trail Blazers, decided to make those few key significant changes to the team that would get them the championship. Gone were Brian Grant, a young Jermaine O’Neal (2nd year in the league), a few others for Shawn Kemp (carrying a baggage of his own) and Dale Davis, a hard playing center from Indiana Pacers, who gave his all for the Pacers the year before against Shaq in the NBA finals. On paper this was a dream team solely built to beat the Lakers in a loaded Western Conference, in reality it was the team from hell. Built to not only plummet the Blazers from being a contender to a has been but also in getting Whitsitt fired from his job.
The former team that lost an year before had dysfunction but not to a point where they detested each other or at the very least were able to come back from adversity when they faced it, they had been down 3–1 in the conference finals and didn’t have home field advantage, yet were able to force also nearly pull off a Game 7 upset. This one had nothing but dysfunction, bickering about playing time, fighting with each other in practice sessions and finally leading to an infamous towel throwing incident on national tv.
That this team of highly talented yet highly selfish players who didn’t trust and more importantly respect each other, got swept in the first round of Western Conference playoffs to the same Los Angeles Lakers that they were supposed to beat is unsurprising and for me has become a case study when it comes to building teams, especially in looking for folks who are not only talented but also unselfish.
A talented individual can make or break a team, a talented individual who is unselfish will only make the team great.