Kobe and the Warriors

Kobe and the Warriors

Clearly, this past Wednesday night was one of the most significant regular season finale nights in recent NBA history. When we got home from church, Matthew asked me which game I wanted to watch – Kobe Bryant’s last game in the NBA or the Golden State Warriors’ chance to break the record for the most wins in the regular season. My answer to him was that I would rather watch Kobe’s last game. I think after 20 years in the league, it is worth watching his last performance.

Truth be told, given the fact that both games where played in California, I fell asleep long before either game ended. However, I did wake up about the time that the announcers and commentators were giving their wrap up of each event. Apparently, both games were incredible and each had a very successful evening.

Let’s begin by thinking about Kobe’s night. I have to admit, I have never been a fan of Kobe Bryant. Don’t get me wrong, the guy can play basketball, but early on in his career there were way too many comparisons to Michael Jordan for me to ever become a true Kobe fan. My loyalty was and will forever be with MJ! Having said that though, I will say that Kobe was an incredible player, won 5 championships, and had one of the most amazing final games that anyone could ever imagine (60 points in his finale).

I was extremely impressed with his news conference after the game. He was clearly in a great mood and enjoyed answering everyone’s questions. At one point, a reporter even asked him a question in Spanish. Kobe just sat there laughing while the question was being asked and then he answered back in fluent Spanish. I had no idea that he could do that! Now, I’ll admit that I was half asleep at this point and could have been dreaming this up, but I was pretty impressed, nonetheless.

Now, as far as the Warriors are concerned, they took care of business fairly quickly against the Memphis Grizzlies. Steph Curry ended up with 46 points and led his team to its 73rd victory of the year. Again, I am somewhat loyal to the Bulls and MJ, so I don’t think that this year’s Warriors are as good as the 1996 Bulls, but good for them in breaking their record.

I do have to say though that the Warriors are a fun team to watch. Because of how good they are, their games have been on television a lot, and I have seen them play several times. I have seen them play teams that are not very good, but I have also seen them play some really good teams. Either way, they make their opponents look pretty silly. They have blown out so many teams this year that Steph Curry and some of the other starters have not had to play too many fourth quarters. There was one particular play that stood out to me Wednesday night. Curry had the ball at the top of the key, there were two back screens set for Klay Thompson, Curry through the ball to the corner before Thompson got there, but right on time. Thompson caught it and made another three-pointer for his team. Their teamwork is something remarkable to see!

Because these two events happened on the same night, you cannot help but compare them. Kobe was asked during his post-game news conference if the way he finished off the season was exactly as if he had scripted it. Again, that question was asked because he had 60 points in his final game. Kobe’s answer was this is not how he would have scripted it – because if he were writing the script, it would have ended with another championship. So, even Kobe had to admit that the team success of the Warriors is better than scoring a lot of points for a team that didn’t make the playoffs.

Last month, I had the opportunity to go to San Antonio and celebrate the 25th Anniversary of our high school basketball State Championship (Hardin-Jefferson High Flying Hawks)! One of the best parts of that reunion was getting to sit around with my teammates and just talk. One of the topics of conversation was this – “why is it so difficult in today’s world to get young players to buy-in to the concept of teamwork?” It seems that so many current high school athletes are only focused on themselves and their future and are not concerned at all with whether or not the team is successful. It seems as though it was simply easier back in our day to get players to focus on the overall success of the group over and above the individual’s goals. Of course, I was never in any danger of being distracted by the college recruiting process anyway, so it was easy to get me to think team-first.

I learned a lot from playing basketball and one of the main life-lessons I gleaned from those years was the concept that the team as a whole was greater than the sum of its parts. This has helped me in many areas of my life, including family life, work life, and in the work we do in our community.

In addition, I certainly believe that Christ’s desire for our lives is for us to be “others focused.” Let me share a couple of insights from Christ as we think about how we can develop a “teamwork” attitude within our own hearts and minds.

  • In Mark 9:35, Jesus said these words, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

This was not just something Jesus taught his disciples, He also constantly demonstrated this attitude as well. If you think about it, Jesus had every right to be treated as a King and even as God – because He was both of those things. However, He chose to not focus on Himself and instead to do the will of the Father. It was the Father’s will that Jesus would lay down His own life in order that you and I might have eternal life. Wow! If Jesus isn’t the ultimate team player, then I don’t know who is! Philippians 2:5-8 is the best Scripture that I can think of to show the humility of Christ:

  • “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

So, as we consider a great night of basketball on the West Coast, let’s think about the script that is being written for our life. Like I said, even Kobe would rather have one more championship then to have ended his career scoring 60 points, but missing the playoffs. In a world that screams, “It’s all about me!” – let’s remember that Jesus said it was all about humbling ourselves in order to bring glory to God. He calls on each of us to reach out to help others to be successful. Just think about the championships in life that we could win if we stopped focusing only on ourselves and began to focus on the good of the team!