The Key Ingredient

It’s not a stretch to say that NBA players are deemed a bit self-absorbed. ESPN […]

Matt Patrick / 5.2.13

It’s not a stretch to say that NBA players are deemed a bit self-absorbed. ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd has a lot to say on this subject. Cowherd notes the differences between selfish players and unselfish players, and the highlights various effects they have on their team(s). Cowherd suggests that it’s actually the unselfish players that are the key ingredient for long-lasting chemistry in locker rooms in sports, whereas the selfish types foster a hostile aura that inevitably results in teams running out of gas and giving up.

Cowherd uses LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to illustrate his point. Suggesting that LeBron is the unselfish type, Cowherd alludes to the wonderful chemistry that LeBron’s past teams always have, and he credits it with LeBron’s unselfishness—something he’s actually been criticized for. The various teams LeBron has been a part of, were prone to have pretty amazing pre-game routines—dancing, skits and handshakes all around—they seemed to enjoy the game, and each other.


On the other hand, Cowherd suggests that Carmelo Anthony is the selfish type. When the best player on the team is primarily concerned with themselves, according to Cowherd, fellow teammates grow suspicious of their superstar, eventually giving up and throwing in the towel. Reflecting on the various teams Anthony has been a part, this makes sense–there wasn’t much chemistry–and if there ever was any, it didn’t last. Anthony has always been known for his “over-shooting” and ball-hogging. Who likes to play with a ball hog, you know?

vinceRemember when Vince Howard, in season 5 of Friday Night Lights, grows into becoming a hotshot? Big-name universities begin to recruit him, and he eventually misses practice to visit a school, which doesn’t sit well with his teammates, let alone Eric Taylor. What struck me most about this episode, was how quickly the team gave up on Vince–how selfishness is utterly toxic to goodness. When the “You did this, you did that…” or “But I only did this because you did that…” come in, it’s time to prepare for a crash landing.

There’s something profound about this. If you look back on the great teams of the last decade, they all had phenomenal team chemistry—whether it was sparked by one superstar like LeBron, or by all of the “little guys” coming together—and the self-sacrificial nature of the team was the very thing that put wind in the sails for the entire season. Even Michael Jordan–someone who isn’t exactly known for his humility–was a part of great teams that had their eyes on something bigger than their own statistics and individuality.

Both the Heat and the Knicks are playing great basketball right now and will most likely be the two teams in the Eastern Cnference championship (hopefully!). Without pretense, Cowheard thinks that the Knicks will eventually sniff out Anthony’s selfishness and will give up on him. What do you think? One thing’s for sure: for either team, any flicker of the “me-first” stuff, will inevitably kill any present chemistry–it always does. I agree with Cowheard, unselfishness is always the best fuel for the long haul.