Editor, White Cover Magazine
You can thank Michael Jordan.
This whole idea that one player can win a championship. This crazy notion that basketball is won by individuals, or that MVPs are responsible for every corner of a title-winning team. Nobody wins championships by themselves… except Michael Jordan. You have no idea how many times I heard that when I was a kid. It was just an obvious thing, and the first time I remember hearing that line, it was said my by Grade 1 teacher. That’s right: the woman who was responsible for forcing us to share blocks and practice tying each other’s shoes was all about teamwork… unless Michael Jordan was involved.
To be fair, Michael Jordan was that good (and he just can’t stop talking about it). LeBron James is close. Kobe tried.
But, in an ironic twist, the NBA remains the least individual-dominated sport there is.
On Tuesday night, Steph Curry put up 38 points. His Warriors lost. On Wednesday night, Steph was even better. He put up 54 and had 11 three-pointers. The Warriors still lost.
Think of that single-game equivalent in any other sport.
If Sidney Crosby or Thomas Vanek scores five goals in 60 minutes, the Penguins or (even) the Sabres win that game. If Brady throws for 450 yards, New England wins that one. If Pujols or Hamilton or Matt Kemp blasts three home runs in nine innings, the Angels, or the Angels, or the Dodgers take those ones, too.
What if Messi scores a hat trick? Do you really think Barca or Argentina would lose that one?
Sure, you need more than one man to a win a championship, and that goes for all and every sport.
But, NBA stats are a throw-away. They’re a one-time deal. Sure, it’s great for Curry and his fantasy owners (myself included), but point totals have never been a guarantee of success in this cutthroat, hardcourt world.
It’s why Steve Nash hurdled the Phoenix Suns to multiple Western Conference Finals with assists. It’s why the San Antonio Spurs bobbed and weaved their way to four NBA titles between 1999 and 2007, despite never having one guy who could explode for as many points as Curry can with the snap of two fingers.
It’s why the seventh place Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t get out of the first round in 2006 against that already-mentioned Suns squad, despite the fact that Kobe played 44.9 minutes and scored 27.9 points per game.
That year — during the 2005/06 regular season — Kobe had the highest-scoring season of his career: 35.4 points per game. Like, that’s insane.
But, remember, the Lakers finished seventh. A very marginal seventh.
Bryant lost the MVP to Nash. Some people cried, because they apparently thought points trump wins or (even worse) guarantees them, but they really don’t, do they? They never have… have they?
The NBA has always seemed like an individualistic sprint made for divas in wife beaters, but the role players matter more than they do in — perhaps — any other of North America’s Big Four. Jordan and Kobe and LeBron get the gold trim, but it’s everyone else that earns the W.
Oh, you want me to go all Grantland on this bi*ch? Well, here’s a pop culture comparison:
All of those films were nominated for Best Picture between 2009 and the present, and two of them won. Not one of those leading roles ever received an Academy Award nomination.
And yet, can you imagine those parts played more perfectly?
They guided those movies. They led them and they directed them — very literally in Affleck’s case — and they never once received an ounce of credit outside of this little-read blog spot.
Okay, okay… one more NBA example:
Everyone remembers the “God disguised as Michael Jordan” game, right? April 20, 1986. The young Chicago Bulls versus the powerhouse Celtics in the Boston Garden. Jordan sets a then-playoff record by scoring 63 points, and Bird praises him in the post-game with that quote from the beginning of this paragraph.
Pretty impressive, right?