Bay Area sports fans are donning royal blue and bright yellow today as the Golden State Warriors take on the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Whether or not you follow the Dubs, regardless of any affiliation you may or may not have to the Boston Garden, I would like to offer three reasons you should consider paying attention, leaning in, checking out and cheering for the Western Conference Champions: GSW.
There's a singular quality about the Warriors which draws people in. It's a core value of the head coach, Steve Kerr. It's palpable. It's infectious and it's real: joy.
If you have watched any of the past five games, not to mention the playoff games leading up to the finals, you know how intense it has been on the hardwood. The players are fiercely competitive and incredibly physical. Tempers flare, temperatures rise. Officials are necessary to keep things cool but too often, they fan the flames. In spite of it all, media and sports talk radio continues to report on the joy the Warriors bring—to one another and to their fans.
It must be liberating to have joy on your side. But what does this mean and how do we know if we have it?
According to Kerr, "joy means losing oneself in the game and letting it take you away."
As a fan, I see joy as a byproduct of balance. To me, the Warriors have the perfect mix of set plays and improvisation. The players take shots we expect them to make and others we never saw coming. What happens in between? There's the joy...and pain!
The joyful dance on the hardwood unfolds with a certain freedom because every player knows his role on the team. There is trust among the athletes to take on their role and a healthy respect for the role of others.
As one Warrior said, "There is a spirit that is infectious out there on the court. Taking pride and excitement in each others' successes, not just your own. That's what makes our team go...playing with joy. When you combine all those ingredients, it's brings out the best in all of us."
Sounds like a great description of joy to me. Thank you Dubs!
From Agitator to Animator
Draymond Green makes a name for himself year round, but the playoffs seem to trigger him from animator to agitator.
As the animator, his competitive spirit drives the team. It's a controlled fire, a passion that gives life late in the third quarter or when the team trails by ten. This is Green at his best!
Its shadow side prods and provides. An agitator gets under the skin of the opponent and that's on them to react and respond. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but at its worst, agitation leads to distraction and breeds contempt. The negativity debilitates the agitator, causes conflict and can quickly get out of control.
ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins has been critical of Green. When asked what advice he had for #23 he said
Draymond, it is time for you to lose yourself in the team. Be that emotional leader. Be the heart and soul of the team (read: animator). We know that Steph is the best player on the team, but when it comes to leadership it's about Draymond. Other guys are watching you: Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, these younger guys are watching you.
If he's not having a good game, he still needs to be an extension of Steve Kerr and the coaching staff. They need him to make sure he leads those other guys to do their part.
Draymond, don't let those emotions get in the way of leading the young core of players on this team!
Coach Kerr who loves and respects Draymond for who he is ought to give him one simple reminder: animate, don't agitate.Courage and Life
I miss seeing both of Steph Curry's parents sitting together in the stands. Having Sonya and Dell Curry on the "sidelines" personalized the professional game. They are still there, both in spirit and sitting separately.
Since their divorce, the mother of the future Hall of Famer shared her own life lessons. One in particular is quite poignant. Cerith Gardiner of Aleteia writes
34 years ago, Curry’s mom, Sonya, nearly came close to aborting her son. In her book, Fierce Love: A Memoir of Family, Faith, and Purpose, the mom of three explained that having already had an abortion while in high school, she found herself pregnant again.
As she was about to enter a Planned Parenthood clinic, she felt the Holy Spirit intervene, according to a report in Daily Citizen:
“God had a plan for that child. There could be no Stephen. If I would have gone through that there would have been no Wardell Stephen Curry II.”
It could also be said that God certainly had a plan for Sonya, too. Through her own experience, the basketball star’s mom has now been able to share her story with so many others, and maybe inspire them, too, in difficult life decisions.
As she shared with People, “I wrote Fierce Love to share my story, my testimony, and my experience so that others may find strength and purpose in their own journeys. I want to encourage others to pray continuously, live intentionally, love fiercely, and laugh daily.”
And thanks to her decision to follow God’s path, Sonya has blessed the basketball world with a true sporting hero, and taught him the fundamentals in life. As Curry shared: “From the beginning, my mom has been a rock of encouragement, faith, discipline, and gratitude for me and my siblings.”
Joy, Animation, Courage and Life.....not a bad cocktail to hold in our hand. I can certainly raise a glass to that...and I plan to. Go Warriors!!