Giant Killing 5 – A Captain Does What He Needs to Do

Sometimes a player needs to be selfish to win. Or, more accurately, sometimes a player needs to know when to take over a game and carry the team on his back.

Rakuen makes a great point when he writes that just as playing too selfishly can harm a team, so too can playing too selflessly. How does this make sense when team sports are about the team? Because even though teams are supposed to play as a team, not everything is equal on a team. It is simply a fact of life that some will be more talented than the others. A team has to play together, but a team also needs a leader, someone who will stand up and say, “I got this” and then go out and win the game. The toughest part of being a star player is finding the balance between deferring to teammates and letting teamwork naturally flow, and taking over when it is needed.

Murakoshi’s problem reminds me a lot of the rap on former Minnesota Timberwolves (and current Boston Celtics) NBA player Kevin Garnett. His teams could never get very far into the playoffs (he made the Western Conference Finals just once at Minnesota), partly because the Timberwolves were ineptly run (Garnett was often surrounded by total crap), and partly because Garnett was just too damn unselfish for his own good. Looking for his own shot was often the last thing he did, even though he was by far the best player on his team — if he saw an opportunity to pass to an open player (even if he had a perfectly good shot himself), he took it. Garnett was great at a number of things (great emotional leader, great defender and rebounder, good mid-range game, etc.), but he just wasn’t capable of carrying a team on his back (the notable exception being during his MVP season when he came through against the Sacramento Kings).

Contrast that with the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan, a player who is just as unselfish as Garnett but who also quickly mastered the art of balance, of knowing exactly the type of player he needed to be during a given game to lead his team to victory. If his teammates were clicking and they just needed his rebounding and defense, Duncan did that. If they needed him to be tough and show that the Spurs would not be intimidated, he did that. And if Duncan could look around and know, “Man, if I don’t score 30+ points tonight, we’re screwed“, then that is what he did. Duncan is not a selfish player; however, he knows he is the best player on his team, and he knows that sometimes he just needs to carry the team on his back and kick some ass by scoring a ton of points.

That’s the lesson Tatsumi wants Murakoshi to learn — he needs to go from being a Kevin Garnett type of player to a Tim Duncan type of player. Taking on an unselfish mindset and thinking of what needs to be sacrificed so that the team can be better is not a bad thing in and of itself . . . but, at the same time, Tatsumi clearly shows that this is not the role he envisions for Murakoshi. Besides, it is obvious by the position ETU is in at this point that trying to fill in the gaps and defer to teammates isn’t working.

Really, Tatsumi is tearing Murakoshi away from the desire to be a control freak and instilling in him the instinct to control what he actually CAN control — his own actions. The coach takes care of the strategy, the individual players work in tandem to take care of the execution. Murakoshi can prop up the other players and help them smooth out their mistakes, but ultimately they have to take care of their own business, and he has to take care of his business, which he does by taking the initiative and setting up his goal.

What I really like is the method Tatsumi uses to show Murakoshi the type of leader he has to be. Gino is a brilliant red herring; Murakoshi is annoyed to be demoted in favor of such a lackadaisical player, but then he witnesses firsthand what kind of a leader Gino is. Basically he is effective only on his terms, when he wants to be. Gino is like the Vince Carter of Giant Killing — all the talent in the world and can impress the hell out of you at times, but he just doesn’t have the drive to succeed and lead.

So Murakoshi gets so pissed — his honor trampled upon so much — that he has no choice but to give in and get things done himself. And he learns what kind of leader he has to be. The captain has to drive the ship, or it will sink. That’s just the way it is.

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