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Lasting lessons basketball taught me part three; people, leadership and teamwork

February 28, 2014
February 28, 2014
Photo taken by Anwar Dunbar

This article is the continuation of the series titled the Lasting lessons basketball taught me. Part three will discuss some of the valuable lessons learned about people and teamwork, all of which have implications for getting along with people and functioning on a team, two key aspects in the workplace and in all relationships.

An important life lesson basketball taught me is that people come and go in and out of your life for any number of reasons. In any workplace, there are always going to be people who are unhappy, distraught and discouraged. There are those who feel as though they’re not being used enough or used properly and will thus want to leave. They may try to convince you to do the same, but if you’re content where you are, you have to stay and continue to press on in your current station. This is something that goes for platonic and romantic relationships as well.

The game taught me that players on the same team can feel underappreciated and overlooked. This can lead to frustration and even quitting altogether. In the workplace, there are always people who feel passed over for promotions that they just knew that they were qualified for, or entitled to get. Some people feel that they aren’t being given the chance to succeed.

Regarding teamwork, the game taught me that the most talented team doesn’t always win, which is always fun to watch when it happens (but not to experience firsthand). When the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA Championship, they weren’t the most talented team. They were an assembly of interchangeable parts that no one else wanted. They were able to put their egos aside, played together unselfishly and bought into a common philosophy while the Lakers fought amongst each other and allowed their egos to divide their team.

Oh, and speaking of selfishness and unselfishness, just as in basketball, it’s a lot more fun to play with unselfish players than it is to play with selfish players. The same goes for coworkers, friends and significant others. When you feel as though someone is willing to share, respects you, and has your best interests at heart, you tend to want to do more for them. When you’re working with someone whose only concern is their own self-interests, it makes for a difficult partnership.

The game taught me that whenever you’re setting out to do something of meaning and substance, you will always have to endure criticism and doubt, often times from people who are on the sidelines watching. Sometimes it’s because they aren’t doing anything themselves. Sometimes they wish they were doing what it is you’re doing. In some cases they wish they had the opportunity to do what you’re doing. Whatever the case, mental strength allows you to keep going through it all.

Basketball taught me that, being a part of a distinct and visible group (like the basketball team) will put a bull’s-eye on your back and people will be gunning for you even if you haven’t done anything to them. Later in life you may become a doctor, a lawyer, a division director, a manager of some sort, the President of the United States, or even just someone with a lot of responsibility. Once you achieve that level, people will inevitably watch and scrutinize many of your moves and you have to be ready for that.

“The team, the team, the team,” legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler stressed to his team in one of his most famous pre-game speeches. Basketball likewise taught me that for any team, whether it’s two people or ten, solid leadership is paramount for any long term and continued success. Lastly, not every leader leads the same way and that goes for athletics, government, the corporate world or any other arena in life that requires teamwork.

This article will be continued in part three of the Lasting lessons basketball taught me.