As I’ve become more experienced as a coach, I realize there is a certain limit to my effectiveness as a teacher. I don’t think it’s due to any shortcoming on my end. It’s that there’s so many other influences in the world, that I’m just one voice among many. And what children see on TV is a huge influence on how they behave. So when children see great individual performances from basketball players, they try to emulate that.
Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and so on are heralded as the nba’s best players. These are the players that children hope to grow up to be. As great as these players are, none of these players can call themselves this year’s champion. While the NBA loves to market its star players for jersey sales, selling tickets, for more viewers and consequently more money from advertising, the San Antonio Spurs quietly took this years championship. The NBA’s best team is just 1/30th of the league. So it makes sense that the NBA needs to find reasons to justify the greatness and popularity of other players in measurements other than wins. However, many of us mistakenly let the NBAs most popular players shape our culture of youth basketball today, rather than the team that is the real champion. Wouldn’t it make more sense to learn from the best, not just the most popular?
Who is the best player on the San Antonio spurs? The more you think about it, the more you realize that answer doesn’t matter. There are 4 players that stand out: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard. Any one of them could be the best player on a given night. The Spurs play a unique brand of team basketball that is historically rare. There are few teams in NBA history that passed the ball as much as the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs. They aren’t flashy on the court or off the court. They don’t talk a lot. They don’t say anything too controversial or interesting in the media. They prefer not to be in the spotlight. It’s a humble approach, but it’s also a strategy. Why give away any intel on your team if you don’t have to?
It’s easier to take teams by surprise when theyre not actively calling attention to themselves or putting themselves in a position to back up their words like some people do…
Lately I’ve found myself preaching to players what the Spurs do well, which is play unselfish basketball with a “pass first” mentality. I’ve toned down the emphasis on individual moves that encourage players to create their own scoring opportunities. Is there a need for one person to create their own shot? Absolutely if the time calls for it, but a majority of scoring opportunities can be earned with quick passing, fast movement without the ball and accurate shooting.
There are five players on the court, so it’s asking too much for one player to do most of the work. It’s just bad basketball strategy to rely on one player too heavily. Like in chess, the queen maybe you’re most versatile piece, but if you use it too soon and too often, your queen will be captured. In chess, it’s a better strategy to employ several of your stronger pieces in an organized fashion. It’s easy to see that basketball is not that different. 5 players working together for a common goal: scoring points and winning games.
My hope is that the culture of youth basketball begins to sway towards the type of culture the San Antonio Spurs have. It makes for better basketball. It’s more inclusive for the participants and it’s a sound strategy to use for winning games. When a team is on a run of success like the San Antonio Spurs are, other teams will take notice. They will analyze how they won and try to add that to their strategy. If that happens, then the trickle down effect to our youth is inevitable. I like to believe that coaches like me will help speed along that process as well by teaching players how to play team basketball.