What Spartan Battle Shields Can Teach Us About Leadership

Spartan fighting forces were notorious for developing some of the fiercest and most effective soldiers in the ancient world. The Spartan army routinely beat the odds by defeating opponents with much larger armies and much better military equipment. Their unique organizational tactics, uncompromising culture, and fearlessness allowed them achieve seemingly impossible feats in the face of overwhelming odds.

The aspis was a circular shield with a slight curvature, a wooden or leather laminated support underneath, and a bronze covering on the exterior. Each warrior was expected to protect their shield with their life. The shield was more than just another piece of military equipment, it was a deeply symbolic part of a Spartan solider’s identity. Spartan women are said to have sent their sons off to war with a stern reminder:

“Return with your shield or on it.”

The importance placed on the shield was not primarily connected to a soldier’s personal well-being, but to the greater good of the entire fighting force. The size and shape of the aspis allowed a soldier to protect the blind spots of his fellow companions in the heat of battle. Each soldier would cover for the man next to him which in turn would allow the man next to them the freedom and confidence to fight with bravery—because they were not worried about protecting their own blindspot.

As one Spartan King said regarding the importance of the shield, “because the latter [other armors] they put on for their own protection, but the shield for the common good of the whole line.”

Every great team must have their own shield to protect themselves (and their team) against hostile influences that want to destroy them. Just as the Spartans used their shields to ward off approaching enemies, effective leaders equip their teams with the necessary tools to protect the interests of the group at all cost.


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Engineering Hope

Leaders have the unique job of trying to inspire people work to create a preferred future that is different than the one they currently live. A preferred future a vision of “what could be” is the emotional firepower that puts the “why” behind every “what”. Good leaders know how to paint a profound picture of hope in the minds of their teams so they are spurred onto greater acts of love, service and creativity.

Inspiration is a fickle thing. We have all experienced the emotional high that comes after a team retreat, the casting of a new vision, or the discussion of new strategic objectives. We are pumped and ready to go after stuff like this because the vision is fresh in our minds and our objectives are clear. 

The problem comes when the circumstances of life cause us to inevitably lose our fervor. Life has a way of clouding our vision and throwing roadblocks in our path that cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture.

This is exactly the point where a good leader needs to step in. A good leader understands that one of the most powerful weapons they have to keep their team from getting discouraged is the use of “memory”.

Leveraging Memory

A leader’s job is to use the past to inspire the present. Good leaders will leverage their past successes to help their team overcome current challenges. Remembering past acts of courage, resilience, and toughness will give their team an emotional boost to power through whatever roadblock they find in their way. 

Memory is powerful because it reminds us who we are and gives us the strength to become who we were created to be. It reminds us that difficult circumstances won’t last and it gives us the strength to strive towards a vision of “what could be.”

Leaders need to use memory as a powerful weapon to combat the challenges that can cloud your team’s vision and discourage them from working towards their mission. Every leader believes they are tasked with leading their team to greater things, to a preferred future where they will impact lives and work towards a better future. But they can’t get there without using the memories and successes of the past to connect them to their work in the present.

Moving Forward

Whenever our emotional compasses start to go haywire, we need to remember where we’ve come from so we can figure out how to start moving forward. It is the leader’s job to recall and remind the people that follow them the victories they’ve had in the past so they can confidently march towards where they want to go in the future. Remembering where we’ve been is crucial to knowing where we want want to go. 

Allow the victories of yesterday to become the fuel for where you’ll go tomorrow. 

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Why Luck is a Skill

 

 

We all wish we were a little bit more lucky. But the truth of the matter is that some people are “luckier” than others when we view luck as a skill and not simply the result of random chance.

Luck is a skill because every leader understands that luck tends to favored the prepared. They understand that those who take the time to prepare will always hold the advantage over those who don’t. Preparation and luck are inseparable concepts because luck rarely finds the person who is unprepared for the fortuitous opportunity that might come their way


After years of experimentation Charles Goodyear walked into a store in 1839 where he accidentally spilled a conception of gum and sulphur onto a sizzling stove which allowed him to discover the compound we know as rubber.

At first glance this anecdote might seem like the result of random chance, but the reality is that Goodyear had been preparing for this “lucky break” his entire life.

Charles Goodyear devoted himself to discovering a new rubber-like material for years before he actually found what he was looking for. He was engaged in an active pursuit that consumed all of his energies; he was always experimenting with different types of material, using new compounds, and trying different combinations.

As a result of his experimentation and curiosity he built the skills, mental framework, and expertise that created a fertile mental state for his discovery of rubber. As Twyla Tharp writes in her book, The Creative Habit:

It took a person with an open mind to recognize the importance of what took place on that stove, it took knowledge and skill to analyze it and repeat it in the laboratory. The hot stove incident held meaning, said Goodyear, only for the person ‘whose mind was prepared to draw an inference,’ the one who had ‘applied himself most perseveringly to the subject.’

Preparation is the essential ingredient that allows leaders to seize on a fortuitous opportunity because luck is never solely the result of random chance. Luck is often used to refer to circumstances like winning the lottery, when in reality some people are more consistently “lucky” than others because they know how to prepare for whatever good fortune might come their way.

Opportunity is all around us waiting to be seized upon. But only those whose minds are “prepared to draw an inference” are able capitalize on the seemingly insignificant nuances and turn them into a positive result.

Luck is not merely the result of random chance because luck always favors the prepared, and here’s why:

 

Preparation helps you make connections

Charles Goodyear got “lucky” when he discovered rubber in the sense that two of the compounds he had been working with for years were accidentally spilled onto a stove. But he was prepared to be lucky because he was able to make the connection between what was happening on the stove from his years of working with hundreds of different materials in a quest to find a durable rubber.

His expertise allowed him to make the connection and draw the inferences from a chance encounter that would have passed less prepared men by.

Preparation helps make you skilled

Goodyear got “lucky” when he discovered his new rubber compound because he had developed the skill to repeat the experiment in his lab after he saw the rubber compound mix. Without his intricate knowledge of chemistry and his familiarity with various chemical compounds he would have been unable understand what was happening and repeat the chemical reaction in the lab.

A commitment to preparation is the first step in developing and honing the skills that allow certain people to be habitually “lucky”.


 

Gary Player once said, “the more I practice the luckier I get.”

Luck always favors the prepared, because preparation helps us make connections and gives us the skills that allow us to take advantage of opportunities. In an effort to prepare for good fortune, write down 2 specific ways related to your field of expertise that you are preparing today to be “lucky” tomorrow:

Example

Expertise: Basketball Coach

I will prepare by watching and learning 5 new offensive plays a week that have nothing to do with my team. I understand this will help build my knowledge of the game, help me make better in-game adjustments, and help me more quickly recognize what opponents are trying to do

I will prepare by reading one new book a month. I understand that the more complete I am as it relates to the tactical, relational, and psychological aspects of coaching the better chance my team will have to be successful on and off the floor.

I will prepare by intentionally meeting with 3 players a week outside of practice: I understand that great team chemistry is never the result of chance, but of intentional relationship building. The better my relationships, the better chance I have to build a cohesive group that will trust each other through the ups and downs of a season.

 

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You can Inspire People to Change: Here’s How

 
In last two weeks, I’ve written about two of the foundational building blocks of transformational leadership: The Habit of Continuous Growth and Leading on Mission
 
A natural outgrowth of these two leadership principles is the subject for our third post. In this week’s post, I want to talk about a dynamic tool that can take your leadership to the next level. 
 
Once you gain a deeper understanding of this concept, you will never look at world the same way again. When you harness this concept’s incredible power, it will change the way you coach, teach, and relate to your players at a fundamental level.
 
Before we get to that, let me deepen our understanding of transformational leadership by adding some critical information to our last two posts.
 

 

The Roots of Transformational Leadership

 
Are you rooted in what is most important?
Let’s take a quick look back at the roots of transformational leadership.
 
Our first, post dealt with the key ingredient of becoming a transformational leader. We know that transformational leadership is only possible when the leader fully commits themselves to the daily process of growth.
 
But we should be careful to distinguish the purpose of this growth; this is not growth simply for the sake of personal improvement.
 
In America, the personal growth movement has dominated our concept of personal development. Our public consciousness has been shaped by the belief that helping ourselves become “better people” is the quickest way to a happy and fulfilling life.
 
The cultural phenomenon of new year’s resolutions has painted us a sanitized picture of life, in which “my happiness” is both the subject and the objective of the tapestry of our lives. I believe we were created for more. Our lives were designed to paint a robust picture of life where other people are the subject of our painting. We exist to inspire change in the world around us. At its core, personal development should be other centered.
 
 
This faulty belief system assumes that my happiness is a function of becoming “the best version of myself” so that I become a happier person.
 
Transformational leadership takes that idea and flips it on its head.
 
Because only when a Leader understands that growth is not a self-help exercise, but a responsibility do we see change start to happen. The best leaders become saturated with the reality that:
 
Our Growth is for Others

 


 
 
Our second post, explored the difference between transformational and transactional leadership.
 
I boiled the difference between these two types of leaders to a simple principle:
 
Mission drives Transformation.
 
When purpose (or mission) is the unifying and driving force for your team, transformation becomes possible.
 
Leading through mission is the engine that drives your team to achieve their dreams. Humans are wired to rally around a common purpose and cause, which is what makes leading through mission/purpose so effective. It speaks to the core of our nature while transforming your team in a number of other practical ways.
 
Now onto this week’s topic:
 
 All effective Leaders are deeply rooted in the right things.
 
When a leaders has deep roots, they can extend the branches of their own influence over a greater area. The deeper the roots,  the greater the influence. 
 
Influence is everything within leadership. Why?
 
Because influence gives you the ability to inspire people to change.
 
 
Inspiring change is the holy grail of all great leadership!
 
Moving someone from a place where they don’t want to be to a place they couldn’t reach on their own is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is the buried treasure, a four leaf clover, the holy grail of leadership!
 
All great leaders are constantly searching for recipe that will bring about change. But change is really, really, difficult to bring about. It is hard to get people to get out of their comfort zone and into a better place. But the good news is that change is contagious:
When we see someone else change we become inspired.
 
Marketers understand this better than anyone! The majority of TV programming is based around this simple concept – from housing and weight loss shows, to talent competitions and cooking shows, transformation is addictive. 
 
We love to watch people change. We love to watch people change for the better and for the worse. It doesn’t really matter which direction their lives turn, as long as the characters end up someplace different than where they started.
 
Good leaders facilitate change, but great leaders inspire change. The fulcrum on which all transformational leadership rests, is the ability to push the people around them to new levels of influence.
 
A leader takes someone to a place they could never go themselves. 
 
The concept of changing behavior is multifaceted and complex, but there is one concept that disproportionally controls a large portion of that behavior. This powerful concept, is one of the most influential ideas in behavioral psychology, with wide-reaching implications and the potential for inspiring huge change in your life. 
  
Are you ready to find out what it is?
Great. Let’s dive in.
 
 

Understanding Habits

 
In his widely popular book, Charles Duhigg breaks down one of the most fundamental aspects of human behavior: our habits.
 
Duhigg cites several sources that estimate about 40 percent of our daily actions are the result of our unconscious habits. Every habit follows a predictable three part sequence: the cue, the routine, and the reward
 
Every habit is initiated by a cue, which can be almost anything. A time of day, a person, a smell, an emotion, an object, etc. The cue is like a starting whistle for a track and field athlete. Once your brain here’s the whistle, your mind automically starts to initiate the habit. And once the habit is set in motion, it is nearly impossible to stop.
 
When the cue initializes the habit, the next step in the process is the routine – this is what we most commonly associate with the idea of habit. Routines can be good or bad, productive or destructive, but the routine represents the actual performing of the action (at this stage our brain goes on autopilot, I’ll explain more about this concept in a second). 
 
Finally, there is the reward. Like the cue, a reward can take many different shapes and sizes – it could be a feeling, a food, an emotion, an object, etc. The reward gives us a sense of accomplishment and begins to develop a neurological craving which engrains the habit.
 
Predictably, every single one of our habits follows this routine. Our brain organizes our actions into these predictable patterns called ‘habits’ for three specific reasons.
 
 
1. So we Don’t Need to Relearn Tasks
 
It would be extremely frustrating if we had to relearn simple skills. Imagine if you went on vacation for three weeks and had to relearn how to drive when you returned back home. Habits encode these behaviors in our brains so we don’t have to relearn basic tasks.
 
 
2. To Save Effort
 
Our brains are constantly looking for ways to increase efficiency and cut out clutter. Habits are a great way to do that.
 
When scientists look at the brain activity of mice that have been conditioned to perform a habit, they notice a spike in brain activity during the “cue” and reward” phase, but during the actual “routine” part of the habit loop brain activity drops off dramatically.
 
It’s like our brain goes on autopilot. When the activity in our brain drops during the “routine” phase, this is our brains attempt to maximize efficiency so that we have a greater amount of working memory to focus on more immediate tasks. 
 
 
3. To Increase Capacity
 
The notion of “chunking” has become a predominant theory for many psychologists in understanding how our brains organize large amounts of information. Chunking is our brain’s attempt to organize large amounts of information into “chunks” of related material that we can make sense of.
 
As we look for patterns to emerge from the vast amounts of seemingly unrelated pieces of information that our brain receives every day, our ability to group this data is what allows up to increase our memories capacity.
 
Chunking is a popular technique with world class “memory athletes’ who use chunking to memorize sequences of hundreds or even thousands of random names or numbers for competition. Chunking helps their brain group these swaths of unrelated data into a coherent pattern. Think of chunking as a brain’s sophisticated filling system. For a fascinating look into how chunking helps us store more information check this out.
 

Now that we have a basic understanding of how habits work, the question becomes:

how does this understanding lead to transformational change in the people we lead?


Inspiring Change Through Habits

Habits are incredibly powerful, but habits don’t inspire change on their own. Habits are an important ingredient in the recipe of change, but they need to be used in a specific environment to be most effective.

When you bake a cake, flour is an crucial ingredient, but you can’t bake a cake with flour alone. You need to mix the ingredients so that they compliment each other. Habits operate in the same way.

Here are the ingredients you need to leverage the power of habits to inspire change in your life and for your team.

 

Don’t Create, Replace

In his book, Duhigg talks about the “golden rule” of habit change which is:

If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted.

Because our brain uses habits to maximize our efficiency, once a habit is created, it can not be destroyed (this is why you don’t have to relearn how to ride a bike every Spring after the snow thaws). Since habits can’t be destroyed, the easiest way to change our habits is to keep the same cue and reward but insert a more beneficial routine.

Why go through the difficulty of creating a new habit when you can easily replace an old one?

Our brains were designed to maximize our productivity, go ahead and use it.

 

Belief

Researchers have found that simply identifying the habit loop (Cue-Routine-Reward) is not enough to inspire lasting change in someone’s life. Understanding the subsequent parts of a habit can help you change a harmful behavior, but researches have found that the times when people are most vulnerable to returning to their old habits is during a time of stress or disappointment in their life.

Why do people who are on a path to escaping their harmful addiction revert to their old ways during a time of difficulty?

 

The answer is simple: they don’t believe they can change.

Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous help people overcome addictive behavior by bulking up people’s belief. 7 steps of their 12 steps process mention a belief in God or some kind of higher power. There are countless addicts who have joined AA without any kind of prior belief in God (and even ardent atheists), but who came away from their experience in the program as changed people.

What researchers have found is that AA’s emphasis on a higher power gives people the framework on which to construct a belief that, change is possible.

When temptation arrives to revert to old habits, belief is the steady hand on the steering wheel that keeps us driving on the straight and narrow. Belief gives us the power to believe that our future can and will be different.

 

Community

If Belief is the flour in our recipe, then Community is the sugar. You can’t have one without the other. To change our habits we first need to believe that we can change, but this belief is most effective within the context of a group. 

In a group context, our belief grows from an intellectual hope in the future, to a walking, breathing, talking example that change is possible.

Our belief puts on skin.

The function of belief is to give us hope during times of hopelessness. And the inspiration for change is most powerful when we can talk and touch it in the form of our teammates, coworkers, or friends.

 

Strengthen with Stories

Once we have identified the habit loop, start telling yourself the right kind of stories. Find the people within your community who have changed for the better and highlight their accomplishments. Track your own progress and share your successes with people in your life.

Start constructing a narrative for yourself (or your team) that praises the accomplishments of what you set out to accomplish. Giving yourself/your team concrete examples of positive change will keep your belief tank filled with fuel. If you find yourself running out of gas, stop for a minute and refill your tank with stories of change and transformation. You’ll be glad you did.


 

Growth Exercise

Team Application

Let me first start by saying that this post had two purposes: first to give you a better understanding of habits, and second to better equip you to inspire change within your life and in the life of your team.

As I’ve written about in the past, the greatest gift a leader can give their team is a daily commitment to the habit of continuous growth. Changing your personal habits is one of the most effective ways you can become, “a leader worth following“.

I hope that you use your understanding of habits to ignite change in your personal life – and although we could all think of a dozen habits we’d like to change I would challenge you to get into the habit of reading every single day, there is nothing more transformational for a leader.

In addition to your personal habits, one of the easiest ways to build a culture of excellence on a basketball team is to encourage the leaders of your team build virtuous habits that set a precedent of excellence.

 

Let me illustrate with a quick personal story:

When I first arrived at the College of William and Mary as a freshman in 2008, the culture of our basketball program wasn’t great. The senior leaders on our team were not hard workers or great leaders. They set an example of apathy and selfishness in their actions on and off the court. They rarely put in extra work outside of the mandated practice time and we didn’t have a culture that valued continuous growth.

Over the next few 4 years, I saw that culture start to change. In terms of wins and losses, my college career could have been considered a failure (we only had 1 winning season in 4 years, and we only won 6 games my senior year).

But one of the things I’m most proud of is the legacy my class was able to leave in how we started to develop a culture that valued extra work and continuous improvement. Today, our program is more successful than it has ever been and there is an incredible culture of work and commitment to growth.

Undoubtedly there are countless factors that have contributed to their success, but I am proud that our class was able to contribute to that success in a small way.

 

Exercise for Your Team

  • Identify Your Leaders
  • Get them to buy into specific habits (think about the cue-routine-reward habit loop) that will trickle down to the rest of the team – an example could be a specific routine before practice starts.
  • Integrate these Habits into the fabric of your team
  • Identify and Praise the change you see in players (ex. if your habit is getting extra shots up, then showcase how people have improved their shooting percentages)

 

 

Here are some more ways to connect with Arete Hoops:

 

Tweet at us@AreteHoops

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The 5 Ways Golden State is Changing the Game of Basketball

The Golden State Warriors had one of the best seasons in NBA history. In doing so they have the rest of the basketball world pondering where the game of basketball is heading.

They are only 1 of 3 teams to finish the season with 83 wins. Steve Kerr became the first rookie head coach to win a championship since Pat Riley, and Steph Curry joined the group of 20 Regular Season MVP’s (out of a possible 55) who went on to win the NBA title.]

A few numbers to put their season in context. The Warriors finished first in Defensive and second in Offensive rating (per basketball-reference.com) as well as leading the NBA in pace (estimated number of possessions per 48 minutes).

They are changing the narrative of what we consider valuable on the basketball floor.

They have ushered in a new era of how we think about the game of basketball and how coaches, players, and fans will approach the game in the coming years.

The game is changing, don’t get left behind.

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1. The Ball has Energy

The Warriors led the league in regular season assists per game at 27.4 (per NBA stats). In the first half of game 6 of the NBA Finals every single one of their ten field goals had come off an assist. The Warriors repeatedly would pass up good shots to get great shots, and the fact that their core group of players has been together for the last few years has allowed them to create the chemistry that is hard to defend against. What you get is a beautiful symphony of ball and player movement that puts the defense on their heels and makes them nearly impossible to guard.

The numbers back this idea up. Per SportsVu tracking data there was no one better than the Warriors at not only sharing the ball, but sharing the ball in a way that would lead directly to baskets. No one created more points from assists per 48 min than the Warriors did this season. They scored 58.3 pts/48min directly from an assist; the Spurs were second at 57.8pts/48min. A quick note, there was a huge gap after the Spurs and Warriors: the Wizards sat in third place almost a full 3pts/game lower at 55.9pts/48min off an assist.

The idea that the “Ball has Energy” has come into vogue in the NBA in the past couple of seasons. Greg Popovich in the Spurs have pioneered the revolution of playing team basketball where everybody touches the ball and everybody’s a part of the offense, and the Warriors have carried the torch of basketball selflessness to new heights in the 2015 season.

The idea that the ball has energy simply means that players will play a little bit harder when they touch the ball. They feel a part of the game plan and just touching the ball whether it’s on a pass, setting a screen, or just swinging the ball on the perimeter, will help them get into a rhythm. No one likes to just stand in the corner waiting for something to happen.

Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks was a great example of how this principle has helped teams: he said in an interview that the Hawks have used him in a way that he’s never been used in his career before. He went on to talk about how many teams often just thought of him as a shooter and would just tell him to stand in the corner. This season they have him moving and touching the ball a lot more on offense. He is searching for his shot which helps him get into a great rhythm and also creates great spacing for his teammates because he such a lethal weapon from the outside.

 

2. “Positionless” Basketball

From the time young players start learning the game, the idea of “positions” is engrained in every kids psyche. The Warriors are destroying that notion, one small-ball lineup at a time. Guards guarding centers and centers guarding wing-players have become commonplace for the Warriors. In the two most critical points of their season the Warriors resorted to unorthodox methods to change the momentum of a series.

Just recently in the NBA Finals Steve Kerr heeded the advice of video coordinator Nick U’Ren who suggested that they replace Bogut in the starting lineup with Andre Iguodala (read more about that here). The Warriors made the change so that their starting lineup didn’t feature anyone taller than 6’7”. This change completely flipped the momentum of the series and allowed them to beat the Cavs in three straight games en route to their first championship win in 40 years.

The second instance happened in the Western Conference Semis the Warriors were down 2-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies and were getting beaten up by the tandom of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Alvin Gentry suggested that they move Andrew Bogut off of Gasol and put him on non-shooter Tony Allen. Bogut essentially ignored Tony Allen on the perimeter which allowed him to sag and give help on Gasol and Randolph inside. This put the smaller Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green cross-matched with the two bigger players of Gasol and Randolph.

But this is where the Warriors are changing the narrative of how teams think about traditional defense. The Warriors are not so concerned with “matchup” problems as they are with taking away your team’s strengths and pouncing on your weaknesses. The Warriors trust Barnes (a small forward) to be able to guard Randolph just well enough to make it hard for him to get an easy post catch and to battle him on the boards. Positions are less important than using personnel in a way that maximizes your team’s strengths (for the warriors this means quickness and flexibility on both offense and defense).

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The Warriors have made a living out of mining players from the draft and in free-agency that are multi-dimensional and fit into their style of play. Guys like Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Klay Thompson are becoming the new face of basketball. Players that can defend multiple positions, make plays in transition, and have the flexibility to give their team a cacophony of options on both sides of the floor.

 

3. “Talent” Redefined

The Warriors are showing everyone how the game of basketball is starting to trend towards smart, flexible, and intelligent players who can read the game and make intelligent basketball decisions on the fly. They have shown us that “super teams” (i.e. LeBron’s Miami Heat) are not the only way to make it to the top of the basketball mountain.

Steph Curry is undoubtedly a superstar, but his supporting cast this year was comprised of A- and B/B+ talent that complimented each other in nuanced ways that allowed the sum of the parts to be greater than the whole.

How is my defender playing me? Is my teammate getting ready to make a cut? If so how should I space out to help them score more easily? These are the kinds of questions of that you can see Warrior players ask themselves as they learn to play their role in the symphony that is the Warriors offense.

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In the classical sense of the word, “talent” is becoming less associated with guys like Allen Iverson, and more relatable to players like Draymond Green. Talent no longer strictly means just the ability to go 1 on 1 or score 40 points in a game. In a smarter, more fluid NBA the cream of the crop are guys that can evolve.

The players that more closely resemble a swiss army life compared to a machete are the players that will thrive in todays league. A guy that can go out and get 8pts and 8assists one night while guarding the opposing team’s 2 guard, then turn around the next night and get 14pts and 10rebounds while guarding the opposing team’s center are the talented players in this new NBA.

 

4. Pace, Space, and Jumpers

The Mike D’antoni teams of the mid 2000’s ushered in the Pace and Space era with their “7 seconds or less” offensive philosophy. Steve Nash was the maestro of those explosive Sun’s teams that steamrolled their way through the regular seasons. The big knock on that style of play was that you couldn’t play that style and still win in the playoffs. The Suns never made to the NBA finals despite having the best regular season records in multiple playoff runs. The critics claimed that up-tempo basketball (and jumpshooting teams) can’t win in the playoffs when the game slows down, the play becomes more physical, and there are less possessions per 48 min (check out our video about the “offensive basketball revolution”.

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The Warriors have destroyed both of those notions in this playoff run. During the regular season the Warriors led the league in PACE (simply the number of possessions per 48 min) of play at 100.69 and they took the 4th most three point attempts per game with 27. So the Warriors played the fastest and were in the top 5 of the league in long range shots (an interesting side note, the Cleveland Cavs were second in the NBA in 3-point attempts during the regular season; so the both teams in the NBA Finals both ranked in the top 5 of the league in 3-point attempts).

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Kerr’s uptempo offense (which Kerr admits is influenced by D’antoni’s philosophy) gives players the freedom to take shots early in the offense, to take quick threes, and to make plays in space. Building on the idea of “positionless basketball”, you will often see Draymond Green push the fast-break and either go coast-to-coast or penetrate and kick to open shooters. Even the Warriors most “natural” center Andrew Bogut will play 15+ feet away from the basket either looking for cutting teammates or initiating dribble handoffs.

 

5. A Leadership Revolution

The notion of the how modern NBA players demonstrate leadership qualities is slowly beginning to change when we look at teams like Golden State. The Warriors best player Steph Curry was just voted the NBA’s MVP and the most popular athlete with the millennial generation. Steph is not your typical superstar. He’s soft-spoken, a family man, involved with a ton of charitable work, humble, not physically imposing, and avoids the typical bravado and chest-bumping that have characterized superstars in the the NBA.

Curry leads by example and empowers his teammates to become the best players they can be. Andre Iguodala won this years finals MVP in large part because Curry opened up opportunities for him on the offensive end. The Cavs trapped Curry on nearly every pick and roll which allowed him teammates to play 4 on 3 behind the trap. Iguodala shot 40% from three for the series in large part because he got wide open shots as a result of Curry bending the defense.

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Curry is not the only player on the Warriors to embrace this servant model of leadership. I recently wrote about on the humility of Steve Kerr (willing to take the advice of a video coordinator) and the selflessness of Andre Iguodala (he didn’t start a game until Game 4 of the Finals) probably saved the Warriors season. You can even point to guy like Andrew Bogut who was pulled from the starting lineup in Game 4 of the Finals and didn’t see the floor at all the last three games (after starting all year) as a great example of a guy who was bought into the success of the team. Not once did you hear him complain or gripe about Kerr’s decision.

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