I am a diehard basketball fan, something that my late father instilled in me. It doesn’t matter whether the teams represent their high school, college or are in the pros. I just love the intensity of five-on-five showdowns, the screeching of tennis shoes on hardwood floors, the reverberation of the referees’ whistles and the sound of the buzzer at game’s end when one team alone raises their hands in victory.
Before the advent of digital televisions where you can now talk to your big screen device and command it to record and catalogue your favorite shows, I would take a week’s vacation from my Fortune 500 job just to watch the entire NCAA championship tournament so that I wouldn’t miss a single game. And yes, like the recent commercial featuring LeBron James that lampoons the good old days, I played basketball when the shorts for our uniforms looked more like hot pants than sports attire.
On Monday, I watched the NBA Finals hoping that the Golden State Warriors would beat Cleveland and take their second title in three years. They won. And I celebrated. But what really impressed me was the way Kevin Durant took his game into hyper-drive while at the same time supporting the other four players on the floor. That’s what being a team player is all about.
Durant has taken a lot of heat since leaving his former team to join the Warriors. Some called him a sellout, a turncoat and things that I’d rather not repeat. But I understood his decision. As he tells it, winning the NBA title has been his dream ever since he laced up his shoes and ran the courts in Seat Pleasant’s Activity Center in Prince George’s County. And after eight seasons in the trenches, carrying his team on his shoulders, Durant decided to share his gifts with a team that already had plenty of talent but needed one more piece.
Durant was clearly the missing link that the Warriors required. And so, despite the amazing performances of Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and the rest, the Warriors — that is their team — proved too much for the Cavaliers.
Even while accepting MVP honors and finally putting his hands on the trophy for which he has so long dreamed, it was clear that he didn’t want to stay in the spotlight for too long. He just wanted to keep participating in a sport that he loves. And he wants to play it with his teammates.
Too bad more people don’t understand what Durant illustrated so succinctly in all five games of this year’s NBA Finals — there’s no “I” in team.