The Art of Being a Great Teammate

How do you define a good teammate?  Google it and you’ll find some of the most popular tandems in sports.  Specifically for basketball, search results include greats like; Mike and Scottie, Shaq and Kobe, or maybe Westbrook and KD.  Those guys are, no doubt, legends but that doesn’t tell you how to be a great teammate to your squad.  Dig a little deeper and you’ll find stats for players who have played with legends like LeBron or Tim Duncan.  For the true basketball enthusiast the stat sheet is like the cliff notes of a book.  In other words, you need depth.  What’s the story behind the story? 

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't always been the greatest teammate.  As a college player I didn't reach my full potential and, as a professional, I have battled against selfishness.  I have come a long way but I'm far from perfect.  In researching this topic I discovered some flaws in the way I approach the game and I've been forced to confront these issues.  The result has been more joy and increased productivity on the court.  

Coach K of Duke University and The San Antonio Spurs’ general Gregg Popovich rarely rave about a player’s individual skill or talent.  The things they rave about are often intangible because everybody at that level can do amazing things on the basketball court.  In fact, LeBron spoke about playing for Coach Krzyzewski during their time together with team USA.  He basically said that it’s rarely about X’s and O’s with Coach K, it’s about being there for your brother, commitment and having each other’s back.  Coach K’s website is full of quotes that validate these claims including this gem, “Making shots counts, but not as much as the people that make them.” Similar statements have been made by some of the top coaches in the game.  Michigan States head coach Tom Izzo is on record saying, “I haven’t recruited the best talent, I’ve taken a few guys who would fit for different reasons.  Leadership. Toughness.”  Boston Celtics head coach and former Butler University over-achiever Brad Stevens brilliantly asks, “How good can we be if our best player is not our best teammate?”  

So who are the players everyone wants to play with and every coach wants to coach?  They are the players that possess a quality that can be described by a phrase we coined here at INSPIRE; teammate-ology.  We define teammate-ology as the sum total of qualities, or lack there of, that measure ones capacity to place his or her self second to the needs of a collective group of individuals ultimately serving the greater good.  Or, simply, the art of being a great teammate.  Teammate-ology is a collection of tangible qualities that we can measure and improve upon.  It consists of tangible qualities that players, coaches and even parents can use to gauge a players ability and/or willingness to mesh with a team.  With this gauge we hope that players will see flaws in their approach to the game and seek to improve because we believe getting better at the game extends far beyond the court. 

Teammate-ology is what makes a player show up to practice an hour early and stay 30 minutes late after it's over.  It’s why the best players are driven to watch film and study themselves, their teammates and their opponent.  It’s the mentality that makes a player pick their teammate up after an untimely mistake and says, “Next play!”,  before locking in to get the job done on defense.  No coach cares how well you dribble, pass or shoot if you don’t possess the necessary qualities that make you a great teammate and puts your team in position to win.  That’s teammate-ology, and every Wednesday for the next 6 weeks we'll break down each of these 6 categories:

Willingness to Compete

Team vs Self

Intensity / Fight

Communication

Character

Attention to Detail

Over the next 6 weeks we will reveal not only what these categories consist of, but also how you as an individual player, coach or parent can improve in each area in a very practical way.  I'll even give real life examples from my experience playing in different countries across the globe.  At Inspire's Nike Basketball Camps we preach these principles religiously because we believe that this is truly part of what makes the difference between players who make it to the next level and those who don't.  We invite you to sign up for one of our NIKE Basketball Camps this summer at www.inspirebasketballcamps.com. 

Esian henderson