They have made a statement that's a colossal statement. Not just about our team, but the game in general. Playing it a certain way. Trusting the pass. Playing collectively. Believing in each other. Our team is not about individual ability; it's about collective will, collective grit, collective guts. We're skilled and talented, too, but our game is on the ground. And the guys we were playing, their game was in the air. Fortunately, as the series went on, we stayed on the ground enough to be able to win it.
~Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle
After the Nuggets were knocked out in the first round (AGAIN!) I wasn't sure how much I'd follow the NBA playoffs. However, I was able to find a team to hate- The Heat and a team to love- The Mavs. The Heat embody just about everything I hate about professional basketball: egoism, arrogance, raw talent trumping team play, avarice. Of course, all of these are pervasive among players and teams, but making a freaking tv show about yourself choosing what team you'd go to sure does raise the bar of self-righteousness.
The Mavs on the otherhand is a team of veterans and role players. I honestly didn't think all these old guys could match up with the Heat, I really didn't. So many others said the same. "The Heat are just too good" people would say. Yet, they did it!
Yes, they had Dirk Nowitzki, one of the all-time greats in basketball; however, like Jason Terry said in the post-game press conference- Dirk was great this season because of how good he made the players around him. Through it all too, he showed humility and made sure to redirect the spotlight from himself and onto the rest of those deserving it as well.
What is the Role of Exceptional Talent in a Collective-Minded Community?
In my last post on collectivism I appreciated the lack of superstardom of the Nuggets. As I wrote it, I wondered about stardom though. It's certainly not a bad thing to be talented. I'm not interested in some crazy dystopia where people are discouraged from becoming exceptional at something. That's not what collectivism means to me. So what is the role of the exceptional in a collective context? We hear capitalists argue about the exceptional being dragged down by collectivism.
I think Dirk showed how an exceptionally talented person furthers that collectivity- for one he is only as great as those around him. He figured out a way to succeed by maximizing the ability of those around him AND himself. He destroyed the false dichotomy of if I am successful you can't be. In fact he proved the opposite- we can't succeed unless others succeed as well.
It was exactly what the Heat did not understand. When Dirk remained humble both about battling a 102 fever and his performance in their Game 4 win, Lebron and Wade were mocking him off court. While key role players like JJ Barrea and Brian Cardinal stepped it up when Dirk and others struggled, the Heat were directionless as Lebron James was repeatedly a no-show.
So, it was great to see. It was great to see a bunch of old guys (I remember watching Jason Kidd when I was a freaking Middle Schooler!!) who just know how to play ball beat these players who are ridiculously talented. It was great to see collectivism shine again.