Mind Over Sports

KOBE BRYANT’S INJURY AND THE MYTH OF THE TEAM

Posted on: April 13, 2013

Kobe Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon in his left leg in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 118-116 win over the Golden State Warriors last night, putting an end to his season no matter how far L.A. advances in the playoffs should it qualify.

I’ve always maintained there’s a myth that is constantly perpetuated in the world of sports.  I call it “The Myth of the Team,” and here’s how it works:  The more we believe we’re part of a team, the less productive we become. I want to repeat that because it’s so important. The more we believe we’re part of a team, the less productive we become. The general belief is that the opposite is true – but it’s not. You see it very clearly on a team where one player is superior to others. The players who perceive themselves as less superior allow the more talented player to take over and lead the group. In the case of a basketball team, they allow the one player to rebound, to shoot, and to, in effect, be the team. As a result, their individual performances are inhibited. To counteract this, I always encourage coaches to take each player into their office and privately tell that player what he – the coach – expects of him or her in the coming game. Twenty points, ten rebounds, and so on. This sends a message to each player that he or she is perceived as an “individual” and has goals to achieve as an individual, rather than letting someone else take over his or her function. It establishes expectations.

No athlete is irreplaceable. When Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were both playing for the Mets, and both went on the disabled list, relative newcomer Darryl Strawberry hit a two-run homer to right field in the fourth inning against the Dodgers and robbed Dodgers’ first baseman Eddie Murray of a homer in the seventh inning when he jumped above the right field wall with his outstretched glove to make the out. And that was also the day Strawberry’s wife, Lisa, went public and filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences. Many had felt Hernandez and Carter were the stars of the team and injuries to them would affect the outcome of future games. This was proved to be – not true.
And I predict the same will happen with the Los Angles Lakers and Kobe Bryant. Watch for other members of the team to step up their game with increased production.

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