When talking about what it takes to be a championship team, a lot of people usually only cover the basics. Talent, defense, superstars and things of that nature are all obvious pieces of a championship team but what fans forget about are the intangibles. Things such as leadership, roles, and experience are all just as important when building a championship caliber team as having a good coach and a superstar player. Building a good team is not easy but when you keep these attributes in mind and address them, you are definitely on the right path.
#1 Role Recognition
Role recognition is key for a team seeking success. It’s important for players to know where they stand and what’s expected of them on a night-to-night basis. A lot of people underestimate the importance of having role players as well as coaches informing players on what their roles are. Every championship team had players who fulfilled their part whether it was on the court, on the bench, or in the locker room. When a player starts to get out of their lane and do too much, it then becomes a problem and messes up the flow of the team. Every good player knows their limits on the basketball court and they are fully aware on what they can and cannot do. There’s nothing worse than a player shooting bricks from the three-point line when in reality he shouldn’t be shooting anywhere past the free throw line. That’s an automatic sub 9 times out of 10. The great Wilt Chamberlain once said, “Focus on what you do well and forget about trying to be what you do not.” This is essential because each person on a team provides something different to the game and when they are put together, it forms a cohesiveness that in a return causes success.
Example: Bad Boy Pistons 89-90
The Bad Boy Pistons are the forgotten team in NBA championship folklore, possibly due to their reputation with the media. Quite frankly however, the Bad Boys were simply too good. Everyone had a role on the team, you had scorers, defensive stoppers and enforcers. Joe Dumars was the cool to Isiah Thomas’ hot. Dennis Rodman was a menace and continuous pest. Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn beat you up. Mark Aguirre and Vinnie Johnson provided buckets in a timely fashion. John Salley was the utility player. Not to mention, a head coach who was very underrated in his own right. The Isiah Thomas led Pistons from the Motor City, have the distinction of being the only team to beat Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson all in the same playoff season. A playoff season that would see them go 15-2 en route to their first championship (89).
Leadership is defined as an act of guidance and direction. Leaders are guys that are confident, determined, and good at encouraging others and when it comes to the basketball court, those guys are the ones that other players look up to. There isn’t a specific way to lead because it can be done in many ways. Some lead by example where as others look to lead vocally. However, it’s imperative to have leadership on a team if you want to win championships. When things get rough in games or a player is having a bad game that’s where the leader comes into play. Their job is to encourage the team and put confidence into teammates to get them going. A leader is necessary to have because they bring out the best in everyone and when others begin to follow, the team begins to perform at its best.
Example: Showtime Lakers
Prior to drafting Magic Johnson in the 1979 Draft, the Lakers were a team mired in mediocrity. They possessed the best player in basketball, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but nothing else. Then came Magic, literally. What would happen over the next 13 years is nothing short of remarkable. Magic Johnson would immediately transform the Lakers into contenders, winning a championship and Finals MVP his rookie year. The Showtime Lakers as they were famously dubbed, would appear in every NBA Finals played in the 1980’s except for 2, (1981 and 1986 both losses to the eventual conference champion Houston Rockets). Five championships in eight tries for the team of the 80’s would not be possible without the leadership of Magic Johnson. A point guard is an extension of the coach on the floor, no other point guard led his team quite like Magic did.
All great teams that have won championships have had experience on their team. Players that have been in that position before and know what needs to be done to come out victorious. Experience isn’t something that’s taught. It’s an opportunity for players to get better and to learn. What separates the good teams from the great teams are the ones that study and learn from what they did in the past to try to improve and be better than the team they were before. In the past 6 years, each championship team has had players or coaches who have previously reached the NBA Finals. The veterans on the team are the guys that younger players look to for help to get them through situations such as the long and grueling NBA playoffs. The information that the older players contain is so valuable for young protégés coming up in the league. It’s easier to get through something that you’ve dealt with before and if you ask most coaches, they will agree that experience is a blessing from the basketball gods.
Example: San Antonio Spurs.
During the last 17 years, the San Antonio Spurs have been the staple of consistency and stellar play. They’ve aged as gracefully as the face of their franchise: Tim Duncan. The luxury of having a Hall of Fame coach in Gregg Popovich, and three future Hall of Famers in Duncan, Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili playing the duration of the NBA careers together cannot be overstated. That experience factor was never more apparent than during the Spurs relentless beatdown of the defending champion Miami Heat during the 2014 NBA Finals. The beating was so bad that LeBron James was forced to skip town for “greener pastures.”
What are your three most important tangibles of an NBA championship team? Hit us on Twitter with your thoughts and opinions. @BBallSociety_