I’d love to get an inside look into the locker room of the Golden State Warriors. After pushing the envelope in their championship season last year and winning 67 games they saw that they could only get better. I imagine that the Coach Kerr’s preseason pep talk went something like this:
Coach Steve Kerr – “I know that most of you were in elementary school when I played, but I had the best player of the era on my team and we were unstoppable. We dominated the league and went on to best the Lakers record of 69 wins by 3. Last season you guys were only 2 games away from that record. We are a better team now. You’re each a year older and we know what it takes to win and beat tough teams on any given night. I know what it takes to win 72 games in a season. I know that we have the team to do it! Let’s go out and make history this year and set the bar high!”
It seemed that the only people in the country that believed that there was a remote possibility of this happening reside within the Bay Area of California. GMs polled gave the Warriors no love. They predicted that they would fare worse than any other team ever coming off of a title. They predicted Steph to be 5th in MVP voting. Analysts considered last year a fluke and that there was going to be a difficult challenge to go back-to-back this season. Even today as the Warriors have just made history there are some that they say they can’t sustain this. “Out in the first round” “No chance against the Spurs” “They put too much on the record and can’t carry it to the Finals”. These and more are being said all throughout social media. If we have learned one thing it should be that Steph is not human, Kerr knows what it takes as he has been there time and time again, Draymond has the ability to recreate the forward position again and Klay is an amazing sidekick. This team knows how to lock down on defense, get open shots, share the ball and just flat out play. We have seen history and will continue to see it again and again.
The conversation and motivation of Coach Kerr then carried them through setting a record as the first team ever to start the season with 16 wins. As we have seen all season long, they were not done there. They carried that streak on to win 24 games and go up 24-0. To think that only two other teams in the history of the NBA had ever started 15-0, this is unreal. We knew then that we were going to be watching something great all season long. The conversation around bigger records then began. Could they really get the Bulls 95-96 record? Could it be done? It seemed like a pipe dream, but they were going to push and make it happen. They knew that they could do it.
Motivation can carry us through if we really believe it. They bought into the vision. They were committed. Even when Coach Kerr was out with his own health issues they carried on while a young Luke Walton manned the bench. The Warriors were not going to let go. Late in the season they lost Andre Iguodala to injury. This was a blow since he was one of their key perimeter defenders off the bench. This didn’t slow them down. Then, the worst happened, they lost 2 out of 3 games at home and it looked like they weren’t going to be able to make it happen. They had two games coming up against the Spurs, who were having an excellent season themselves. They were on their to winning 69 or 70 games. The Spurs become just another blip as 73 dominated the thinking and motivation of this team. They sped by the Spurs in both Oakland and San Antonio. It was unbelievable. The NBA even changed the Kobe retirement game to ESPN 2 to make room for a Warriors 73 win game on ESPN.
Now, what can we learn from this team?
The Role of Leaders
As leaders it is our job to motivate our teams, paint a visionary picture within their souls and help them see what is possible. Steve Kerr did exactly that. He showed the Warriors what was possible. He had been doing that ever since he took over for Mark Jackson. He helped Steph see what he was truly capable of. He offered the motivation, but most important is that he put his players in opportunities to lead and succeed. He knew that he needed players on the court leading. He played with one of the greatest coaches ever in Phil Jackson and the Greatest Of All Time in Michael Jordan. He knew a thing or two about leaders, big games, clutch shots, leadership and good coaching. He instilled this on his team. We can learn a lot by putting the trust in our team to go forward and excel. When we put them on too tight of a leash then they are always looking behind their shoulder before they take the shot or make the risky move. We need to show them that we trust them so that they can go out and not only succeed but fail without the fear of wrath from their superiors.
The Power of Teamwork
We need to align ourselves with a great team and then draw off of each other’s strengths. A strong team can perform wonders. The Warriors put players in place to breed a defensive minded atmosphere to surround their strong offensive play. They also improved last year when they dumped a few players. It was addition by subtraction. Sometimes we need to part with dead weight to be able to excel. Be sure your team is made up of the right individuals to succeed. You need leaders, followers, doers, and creators. These are important tools to any team. Yes, there is going to be some overlap. If Steph can’t get it done then Klay or Draymond step up and put in 25+ point games and vice verse. Build a team that makes each other better and can work cohesively. Not to say that there shouldn’t be friction. They should all feel confident to correct another and give pointers. There need to be outspoken leaders on the team. You don’t want a team full of lemmings.
Defense Wins Championships
Yes, Steph Curry just set an NBA record that will be hard to beat by making 402 3-point shots in a single season and averaged 30 points a game, but he also leads the league in steals. With Bogut anchoring the center and some excellent wing defenders the Warriors are one of the best defensive teams in basketball. In business we need to be prepared. One of the things that make the Warriors so great is that they have a shutdown defense that creates. They are always looking for the big play off the steal, block or defensive rebound. Let us use times in business to help us create big plays on offense. When a company attacks our messaging, a customer ridicules us on social, an influencer turns to a competitor, a marketing campaign doesn’t get the results let us look at the data and situation and turn it into a win for us. Companies that leverage their defensive measures to create strong offense become the most successful.
There are many other things that we can learn from this Warriors Team. I have had a lot of fun watching this team do what they have done this year. I strive to look for lessons in everything and I think that we can learn a lot from sports in general. As we push our businesses and lives forward let us do so by taking the lead and working with those around us and turning negative moments into great wins. Our failures can breed some of the greatest successes that we can ever have. Go after it!