Let the games begin! The long-awaited time is finally here—the 2015 NBA playoffs commenced this past Saturday night and every team has exhibited some of the best basketball to ever grace shiny wood floors all across the nation. The playoffs are exciting for a multitude of reasons: first and foremost, there’s the opportunity to be dubbed the best team in basketball, additionally, teams and players show an unbelievable amount of dedication and motivation that can at times be lost during the regular season, the games are played in rapid fire succession with only one day off in-between each matchup, and coolest of all, those playing on the court have the chance to redefine greatness.
Greatness can at times appear to be a one-dimensional idea. By this I mean to say that some define it to fit within a rigid construct. To be great is to be better than good (obviously), it is to be exceptional, and it is to land in a stratosphere slightly higher than all others. And yes, Merriam-Webster can positively attest that all of these aforementioned definitions are correct, however, how greatness is achieved is far from definable.
Let’s observe a few different examples in NBA history that helps strengthen this point. The Miami Heat—the most aptly named professional sports team in the nation—in 2011 went from zero to hero in a mere season of play. With LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade choosing to join forces and venture down to South Beach, greatness took on a whole new meaning. Three players combined with a dedicated group of Floridians to completely redefine a successful team dynamic. Instead of being lone rangers on their respective former teams, Bosh, James and Wade saw the opportunity to become a strong cohesive unit in contrast to being strong individual solo artists. And within one season, the Heat reaped the insane reward of winning the NBA Championship. Then they did it all again the next season!
Another fine example of unusual greatness is the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team, also known as the “Dream Team”. 1992 was the first year that active NBA players were able to play for the Olympic team and boy, did the USA prosper under that front. This team was comprised of a few NBA favorites such as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley and the one, the only, Michael Jordan. Those guys could probably go into any sports game and annihilate the competition they were that good. This team managed to defeat the eight opponents they faced by an average of 44 points per game and won the gold medal handedly. This collection of players has been considered the greatest team in the world—they played seamlessly together, they won by unbelievable margins and they made the world recognize and fall in love with the sport of basketball. Talk about redefining greatness, they got people in Yugoslavia to become diehard bball fans!
Lastly, and potentially most importantly, we have the Wizards. The Wizards are another usual case of the unusual. DC has always had a tough time with its professional sports teams—it has been decades since the last championship was won, it seems most teams fear being in the playoffs at the same time as their fellow Washingtonian sports comrades and winning records often come and go. The Wizards, however, have performed the most mind-blowing of feats and become a real team worth cheering for in a matter of months. Under the tutelage of coach Randy Wittman, combined with the unparalleled vision of those in management positions (i.e. those who decide on trades), and the players on the team, the Wizards have become stronger than they have been in, well, too many years to count. The greatest aspect of the Wizards is that they are a team comprised of not one, two or three phenomenal players; rather they are a team comprised of 15 intelligent, talented and capable players that work together in order to form a team where everyone succeeds. Now here they are finishing their season with the best record they’ve had since the 1970s and they’re currently killing it in the playoffs.
Playoffs and championships represent the achievement of greatness in many forms. Greatness is dynamic, ever evolving and ever-growing. Every player and every team is capable of such a high accolade, and it doesn’t take one strict plan to get there. Play the game for you, for your teammates and for the ability to say you redefined greatness under your own terms.