Sports Cliche

There is no “I” in “team.”

That’s the cliche that will cause any athlete to roll their eyes. I know because I was a high school athlete and have been a junior high/high school coach for several years. I hated that phrase; I hated the corny posters hanging up in gyms and locker-rooms with that phrase and a few others.

As overused as it is, it is true.

Team sports – football, basketball, volleyball, soccer – require everyone on the court to play a vital role. The coach is not doing their job if they rely on one, maybe two, players to carry the team to a win. On the court, the players should act as a well-oiled machine where everyone demonstrates their strengths.

I do not watch the NBA. I cannot stand grown men crying over a broken thumb or calf cramps and needing to be carried off the court or don’t play for weeks because of those two or other “injuries.” I’ve played with two broken thumbs. You tape it and forget it. There’s really very little they can do for a broken thumb, depending on where the break is; mine are the proximal knuckles. I also do not like how the majority do not seem to play for love of the game, just the money. They show off with fancy tricks but then miss a basic foul shot, which junior high, high school, even elementary students can make with their eyes closed relying on muscle memory from practice. They make millions of dollars; they should not ever miss a foul shot or open lay-up.

However, I have enjoyed watching clips and reading about Steph Curry and the other Warriors. He seems to be a solid player who will admit when he’s not playing well. (This post is purely about athleticism, but I will say that I also admire his partnership with his wife in heading up their home and his open faith and testimony of his Saviour.)

I saw a few of my friends, who have a love/hate feeling toward Curry, posting articles from different sports “experts” comparing him to Lebron James. The posts generally say that James is a better and more valuable player than Curry because coaches and players can depend on him to carry the team and basically, on his own, win games. Curry depends on his teammates “too much” and cannot win a game on his own.

I think those “experts” need to find new jobs.

To me, those reasons actually make Curry a better and more valuable player than James. It also makes his coach better than the coach of the Cavs. When James is out crying about calf cramps, the team suddenly struggles. They might have a lot of other talented guys, but if they do not practice to play as a team, they depend on James, those talented guys are going to and have struggled against teams like the Warriors. Those teams have everybody playing to their individual strengths. They might have a star player, like Curry, but that star player knows to depend on his team and make the smart decision for the sake of the big picture – the game and the team, not just showing off his own abilities.

When I coached, I appreciated having a player or two I could depend on to play consistently well anywhere on the court. I arranged my players during the game based on their strengths against another team, which meant they did not always play the same position (leading to well-rounded players for the next coach they got).

No single player is responsible for a win or a loss. However, that is harder to believe when a single player is given credit for the wins, especially when that player looks to place the blame on everyone but himself for a loss. I would rather have it vice versa if one player “has” to be responsible per the media. I’ve heard Curry give credit to his entire team -including the coaches – when they win, and mention his faults when they lose, or when they lose, he again points out the entire team including himself. His sportsmanship, his breaking several records, and knowing how to play on a team in a team sport, seems to make Curry a more valuable, smarter, and better player than someone like James, regardless of what the “experts” say.