I was fortunate to play on two NBA championship teams, but I’ve also played for teams that had no possible shot at winning a title. So it’s easy for me to see when a team has that “it” factor. It’s even easier to know when a team doesn’t have it.
What do you have to do to become an NBA champion? There are a lot of teams vying for the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy, but only one can have it and this season has the most parity I’ve seen in my years of following basketball.
There are telltale signs that show whether a team is ready for the trophy. If you go through this checklist, you can see if your favorite team is ready to win it all or go fishing early.
1. Style of play: A team should have a defined style. Are they a halfcourt team or a fastbreak team? Are they defensive oriented?
A team needs a defined style, so when things aren’t going well the players can return to the system’s set principles.
2. A quality point guard and an inside presence: Having an inside-out game is what gets you easy baskets.
3. A superstar: Not a really good player. You need a superstar, a potential Hall of Fame player. Someone who can take over a game.
4. A beast: This doesn’t necessarily have to be your most talented player, though it usually is. You want a player who doesn’t panic when things go bad. A player that takes the big shot or makes the key defensive play. Someone with enough experience to steady the team when the pressure rises.
5. A great bench: You need guys who can come in the game and change the momentum. And if you don’t have anyone who’s even close to being Sixth Man of the Year, you better be wary.
6. Adversity: There is a point in every championship season when the team vows to play harder, smarter and, most importantly, play together. That usually results from adversity and it happens in a variety of ways: an upsetting loss, a players-only meeting, a trade or an injury to a key player.
7. A magic moment: This often follows adversity. Pulling out an important victory when you’re about to lose. A shot that goes in from halfcourt. A record-breaking winning streak.
8. Chemistry: There doesn’t have to be a love fest going on in the locker room, but championship teams need to have players who respect each other and their coach. A team that respects itself is a team that grows.
So go down this checklist with an objective eye. You’ll soon know which teams have a chance to be champs and which don’t.