Even if you aren’t a fan of professional basketball, you have to marvel at what the Golden State Warriors are doing right now. Last count, they have won 55 games. Winning 55 games isn’t all that impressive, until you realize that they have only played 60. Yes! They have only lost five games! This is impressive, but not totally shocking. The Warriors have the two best three-point shooters in the league. And their coach, Steve Kerr, was one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history.
At first glance, their winning ways lead to obvious conclusions. It really isn’t that complicated. Arguably, they have one of the best scorers in history. They have one of the top defenses in the league. And, they had three players voted to the 2016 NBA All-Star game in Toronto. Individually, not many teams measure up.
It’s simple math. To win, all you need to do is score more points than the other team. If you have better players and better shooters, that should be fairly easy. The Golden State Warriors average five more points per game than the next best offense. And the reigning MVP, Stephen Curry, is leading the league in scoring. Great team, great talent, great coach, and great scorers.
The NBA is known as the greatest one-on-one league on the planet. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and many of the best NBA players in history are tremendous one-on-one players. When you have the greatest player in history on your team, what do you do? You give him the ball, stand back and watch. But, that isn’t how the Warriors win.
The Golden State Warriors lead the league in several categories, but what is most impressive about this team is that they lead the league in assists. For those who aren’t basketball enthusiasts, an assist occurs when a player passes to another and that player immediately scores. In simple terms, an assist is the work that a player does to set up another player to score.
Wait! Hold up! Is that right? The NBA is a league that thrives on individual achievement and accolade. Most NBA contracts have incentives based on individual performance. The Warriors are so great, because they have a culture focused on making each other better. Many of the players on that team have sacrificed their individual careers to play as a team.
Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, this is a lesson that has broad ranging applications. Classrooms, offices and society are similar to the NBA. Students, executives and most of us are focused on our individual accolades. We want the best grades. We want the most power and control. We want the most money.
But, how often do we lead the league in assists? How often do we do the work necessary to set up another person to score? How often do we take the shot, instead of making that extra pass? Golden State will likely win a second championship this year, because of their ability to make each other better. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to make your team better?
If you want your team to win like the Warriors, focus on making the extra pass. Focus on doing the work necessary to set up your teammate to score. Focus on leading the league in assists. At the end of the day, you have a choice. Do you want to do what’s best for you or what’s best for the team?