One Nation, Under Rings

Photo by pictrhound on Flickr

You won’t find an NBA star who will admit he values individual achievement over the highest team success. You won’t find an NBA star willing to tell the truth on this matter.

This is not to say that all NBA stars prioritize their own success over that of the team, just that NBA stars are also humans, and as such can be expected to share in the human condition, in which personal achievement is highly regarded, at least in this era and this country. (International athletes represent a fuzzy gray area; nationalism and by extension collectivism is obviously much stronger in less secure and diverse nations.) Happiness is the human spirit’s Holy Grail, and in the career-focused modern day, being named the best at what you do is a pretty fantastic boost for a person’s happiness.

via MVP Award, Not Championship Trophy, Is NBA’s Elusive Holy Grail |

Oh, sports. You’re such a reflection of society, aren’t you? In the world’s largest, most undulating funhouse mirror, of course.

I won’t pretend to know the things that Mr. Ziller knows (Why do kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Was the moon landing faked? What do NBA players really want?). His parenthetical note, however, speaks to an issue in sports with which I’m all too familiar after too many summer months spent in Los Angeles:

Nationalism (in the sense that every fanbase must be referred to as “[Team Name] Nation” in our era and country) is much stronger when the team is successful and more secure. As proof, I offer the flag, the tried and true symbol of one’s identity within a community or a nation. It’s also the go-to vehicular accoutrement for thousands of Laker fans during the dog days of championship season, turning Southern California into a sea of yellow fabric. Unfortunately, it seems that flag fabricators around the world ran out of that specific shade between 2003 and 2009.*

*I don’t mean to pick on Laker fans – and I love Los Angeles! – it just comes naturally when you start writing for Matt Moore. You know how it is, guys.

That’s just the way it is in sports. If we can’t be the best at basketball, then we want to be the best at choosing for whom we cheer – at least that way, we can lord our omega-ultra-omnipotence of geographic chance or bandwagon jumping over those miserable fools who root for the dregs of the league. And if we can’t root for the best, then we’ll unleash our real American-status (yes, even you Canadians and other assorted peoples). We’ll laud the individual – 81 points from Kobe, and he didn’t even play the fourth! – and destroy him – see: James, LeBron. To be a fan is to be bipolar, depending on the weather.

Win as a team, lose as a group of individuals. Welcome to David Stern’s Wild Ride.

Andrew Lynch

When God Shammgod created the basketball universe, Andrew Lynch was there. His belief in the superiority of advanced statistics and the eventual triumph of expected value-based analytics stems from the fact that he’s roughly as old as the concept of counting. With that said, he still loves the beauty of basketball played at the highest level — it reminds him of the splendor of the first Olympics — and the stories that spring forth from the games, since he once beat Homer in a game of rock-paper-scissors over a cup of hemlock. Dude’s old.