[Note: Yes, I posted this here and at Bullets Forever. When I was writing this up, I wasn’t sure which site it would be better suited for, so I’m posting it at both.]
If you caught any Celtics game last season, they you’re probably familiar with their rallying cry of “Ubuntu” which translates to “I am because we are.” Doc Rivers was able to get everyone on the team from the All-Stars to the scrubs to buy into the Ubuntu philosophy as they all sacrificed their individual games for the good of the team. Sure, the whole thing was pretty corny, but you can’t argue with the results.
Chanting “Ubuntu!” after every huddle doesn’t guarantee success, but practicing the principles behind it guide every successful team. Doc knew that in order to get the C’s to buy into that mentality, he had to work from the top down. When he was able to get The Big 3 sold on Ubuntu, the rest of the team followed suit. Teams take on the character of their best player. It’s not a surprise that the Spurs are a defensive minded team that executes flawlessly on offense but lacks flair, just like Tim Duncan. Likewise, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when a team with a dysfunctional leader plays dysfunctionally.
Over the last few years, Antawn and Caron have been the captains and the vocal leaders of the team, but more than anyone else this team follows Gilbert Arenas. He might not fit the classic profile of team leader, but like I said before, the team takes the character of the best player. Does a quirky team with explosive offensive ability and defensive woes remind you more of Arenas or Butler and Jamison?
That’s why Gilbert’s decision to take less money than he was offered could prove to be the move that takes the Wizards from a perennial one-and-done to legitimate championship contender. By taking less than the max, he’s demonstrating to the team that he’s willing to make sacrifices to make the team better and that he’s expecting the same commitment from everyone else.
Only time will tell what each player is willing to give up in order to get to the ultimate goal of an NBA championship, but if they follow the tone that Gilbert’s set here in the same way that they have in the past, we should be ready to see a Wizards team that’s ready to embrace the concept of Ubuntu.