From my most recent article at WorldMag.com:
“Dwight [Howard] and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets. The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team.”
This statement, made by James Harden, all-star guard for the Houston Rockets, in a recent interview reflects the common wisdom about how a basketball team is built. It’s how many people view basketball. “Star” players anchor the team; everyone else fills in around them. The other players are seen as pieces to complete the puzzle and are interchangeable.
Such a view misunderstands a fundamental principle of basketball. Every player on the court is essential all the time. The San Antonio Spurs are perennial title contenders because they play better as a five-man unit than anyone else. LeBron James couldn’t win a title in Cleveland his first time around because his teammates weren’t good enough. Two of the biggest wins in Michael Jordan’s career came on three pointers by John Paxson and Steve Kerr respectively. No team is truly great without everyone contributing.
While Harden’s comments reflect a misunderstanding pervasive in basketball, the same misconception is rampant in everyday life as well. We tend to see ourselves as stars. Everyone else is a role player, a supporting actor, there to make us look better and make life easier.
. . .
Even the church falls into this trap. It is so often divided into the stars and the observers, the doers and the congregation. Instead of everyone contributing, a few people bear the weight for all the ministry, perpetuating a celebrity minister culture and putting them on a pedestal. They are religious “stars.”
All of this misses something very important . . .