Lessons from the 2015 NBA Finalsadmin
The NBA Finals is a sporting event that takes place in June every year in the United States. The event features two of the best basketball teams competing to determine the best team for the season – the best team from the eastern conference and the best team from the western conference. The two teams have an opportunity to play 7 games and the first team to win 4 games is crowned the champion and is awarded a trophy. The trophy remains with the team while the players are each given a ring at the beginning of the next season. For professional basketball players, this ring is a sign that they have attained the highest level of excellence in their playing careers. At the end of each competition, a player is awarded with the Most Valuable Player (MVP) trophy for making the greatest contribution to the success of his team.
This year’s playoffs featured two great teams – the Cleveland Cavaliers from the eastern conference and the Golden State Warriors from the Western conference. The storylines for this event were very captivating because:
- The Cleveland Cavaliers had the best player in the NBA and it was an opportunity to win the first championship for the team and also end sixty years of major league championship drought for the state of Ohio
- The Golden State Warriors had an opportunity to win its first championship after a 40-year drought.
- The two teams were coached by rookie coaches for the first time in about 60 years. This means that it was the first season the coaches have had to coach an NBA team.
- The Golden State Warriors was a completely healthy team
- The Cleveland Cavaliers lost 2 of its best players to injury during the playoffs.
The 2015 NBA Finals was won by the Golden State Warriors and the MVP of the tournament was Andre Iguodala.
This year’s event offered a lot of lessons but and I will highlight 5 of them:
1. Successful leaders have a good team around them – Steve Kerr, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, won 5 championships as a player and understood that for a team to win the championship, the team has to be very proficient in its offensive and defensive game. When he was hired as the coach of the team, he hired two assistant coaches to help the team with their offensive and defense. He hired the coaches who had a reputation for being the best in offense and defense. The Golden State Warriors eventually became the best offensive and defensive team for the season.
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2. Good leaders listen to everyone on his team – The Golden State Warriors won the first game and lost the next 2 games. The special assistant to the coach, Nick U’Ren, is responsible for creating video clips for the team’s video sessions and select the soundtracks that play in the arena. Nick noticed that Lebron James, the current best player in the league, was powering a shorthanded team to success so he reviewed film from the 2014 NBA Finals where a team featuring Lebron James lost the tournament. He suggested a change in the lineup that mirrored the tactics San Antonio team used in 2014 to defeat a team led by Lebron James. Steve Kerr discussed the pros and cons of the change in strategy with his team and implemented it. Most basketball analysts credit this change in strategy for the success of the Golden State Warriors.
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3. It takes a team to win a team sport – Although the Cleveland Cavaliers featured the best player in the game, Lebron James, he did not have the supporting cast and had to go against a very good and healthy team alone. The Golden State Warriors had a very healthy team and everyone played well together because they had been playing as a team for several months.
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4. Don’t burn out your team so it can be effective – The Cleveland Cavaliers played only 7 of its 15 players for most of the season and playoffs so when 2 of their core players got injured, the team had to play 2 players who had not been in critical game situations as a replacement. The core team also played a lot of minutes during the season so the players were burnt out and were not effective. With the Golden State Warriors, the core team had 11 players and there was a cap on the number of minutes each player had to play regardless of the result of the game. This approach helped preserve them for the most important games of their careers thus far.
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5. Personal sacrifice has its rewards – Andre Iguodala, the eventual MVP of the tournament and a 10-year veteran of the NBA, did not start a game all season because the coach decided that he needs to come off the bench to help the team become successful. This situation required a lot of personal sacrifice because of the caliber of player that he is. The change in the team’s strategy allowed him start in the most important games for the team and he was rewarded with the MVP trophy for his efforts in the most important game. He is now the first NBA Finals MVP to never start a regular season game.
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