NBA basketball is enduringly fascinating to me because it lays bare the extreme challenge of getting people to work together egolessly to achieve a common goal.
This season’s finals presented an interesting variation. The Cavaliers definitely gelled, but had the perverse advantage of having one very clearly superior player who just happens to be the most selfless ball-sharing top N superstar/scorer in the history of the game. There was no question, ever, about who the star was, or who had the best chance of making the play on either end of the floor. And yet LeBron shares the ball and the credit, and is demanding without, in general, being a dick. Easy to give all your effort and belief in a situation like that. And no pressure either; you as his teammate only need to be your best self — he’s going to be transcendent.
On the other side was a team widely touted as “unselfish” by definition, by first principle, by raison d’etre. They move the ball, they pull for each other. And yet, they lost. There are many reasons for losing an NBA Finals, and foremost for the Warriors were injuries, to Curry in earlier rounds and then to two of their stoutest defenders, Bogut and Iguodala, to close the series. And yet, it is extreme cohesion at the end that wins titles in the end.
Which makes this interview with Shane Battier, LeBron’s teammate for two titles in Miami, interesting. “If I could talk to those guys, I would say that’s the pitfall to creating a dynasty. It’s keeping the guys that are the essential glue pieces, and keeping them to glue pieces and not make them more than that.”
Steph fell off and didn’t deliver. The team as constructed has an alpha dog and two betas, which only works if the alpha is clearly alpha, and because Curry is both supremely confident and humble. This may be a precarious balance to maintain going forward. Certainly harder than LeBron, a clear number two in Kyrie, and whatever hopefully adequate motley crew joins them.