The Golden State Warriors: A Team First, Super Second!

On Tuesday, June 12th, the Golden State Warriors celebrated with their fans in the Bay Area their third championship in four years. As someone who just moved here, I cannot help to marvel at what this team has accomplished as an organization and as a TEAM.

The Warriors’ victory got me thinking about the psychology of the terminology “Super Team.” As many of us know, the Warriors have super mega star players, therefore, it is easy to categorize them as a “Super Team.” But just calling them that I feel is a disservice because I believe that they are more than that.

What makes the Golden State Warriors extra special is that they never get consumed or distracted by how “super” they may be. They always maintain poise, humility, and brotherly camaraderie that can be hard to find in professional sports. This is why their greatest strength is their cohesiveness as a unit.

This Team’s Identity is Everyone

When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 — cleverly called “The Decision” — to join the Miami Heat, he started this “Super Team” era. He played with super stars Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade and won 2 championships in the process. But, as some may argue, the identify of this team was always LeBron James. What makes the Golden State Warriors special is that the identify of this team may be different on any one night. Is it Kevin Durant? Is it Stephen Curry? Or Klay Thompson? Either one of these players could be superstars on any other team but they would be the first one to tell you that the identify of this team is EVERYONE.

No matter if you are playing in sports or on a team in an organization, there are a few things they consistently demonstrate that makes them the benchmark on how a team should operate.

  • It Starts with the Leader: Steve Kerr did a sensational job managing this team despite the many injuries the Warriors had to face during the season. He always believed in his players and maintained a sense of calm even when he was going through physical ailments himself. No matter how big or challenging the adversities a team has to face, it all starts with how the leader responds and rallies behinds his/ her team.
  • Play Together: What makes the Golden State Warriors very difficult to defend is their ability to circulate the basketball well. This sharing of the ball is fun to watch and is one of the reasons why they are able to create open looks and high percentage shots. But this is not easy to do especially when you have as many mega starts as the Warriors do have. But this willingness to pass the torch on to the next teammate is a refreshing reminder that this is something that teams have to do to unleash collective greatness.
  • Humility: Perhaps the greatest attribute of the Warriors is their unselfishness and humbleness. This narrative consistently is on the display in how the play as a team and how they speak about each other. When Kevin Durant won the MVP award after the 2018 NBA Finals, a reporter asked about Curry not winning the award despite a stellar performance and Durant astutely stated “does it matter….we just won back to back?” At least publicly, Durant would not let his individual accomplishment overshadow what his team accomplished.
  • Recognize Each Others’ Strengths: One key element of a strong team is the willingness to acknowledge each other’s strengths, contributions, talents, and value to the team. This is easy to do if each team member is bought in to the idea that no one person is above anyone else. This seems to be the character of this team. Because of their unwavering humility, players on this team seem to deflect being placed on a pedestal publicly and recognize others. For example, Kevin Duran, who is arguably one of the greatest players to play the game once referred to his teammate, Stephen Curry, as the “system” of the team.

It is because of the above factors that the sum of the individual parts of this team is greater than the number of players combined. These are qualities that can be emulated by any good functioning team. The great Coach John Wooden said it best when he stated “that sports do not build character, they reveal it.” Without question, the same goes in business as well.