What Makes a Champion?

With the Lakers up 3-1 in the 2009 NBA Finals, and 1 win away from history, it feels as if the Los Angeles Lakers have dominated the Orlando Magic and that a championship is inevitable, so let’s pause for a moment to notice just how close success and failure can be to each other, and what makes a champion.

And while it would be cool if someone else read and enjoyed this, frankly I’m writing this mostly to remind myself how I need to approach the goals I have set for myself in life, and how important it is that I not fool myself into disregarding “little things” I do each day. After all, it could be that there is really no such thing as a “little thing.”

During (and after) game 1, a collage of slow motion replays was assembled to the television audience  how Kobe Bryant was barely getting his shots off over the Orlando defense, avoiding blocks by fractions of an inch.

A fraction of an inch seems like such a little thing in a game where the court is 94 feet long and their goal 10 feet high, but it is surprising how often success and failure are so close.

Think about it.

(1) Had Courtney Lee made just 1 of 2 layup attempts in the final 12 seconds of regulation in game 2, and…

(2) Had Dwight Howard made just 1 of 2 free throw attempts in the final seconds of regulation in game 4…

The Lakers would be down 1-3 in the NBA Finals.

And instead of talking about Derek Fisher‘s heroics, Pau Gasol‘s underrated play, Trevor Ariza burning his former team, Stan Van Gundy‘s rotation decisions, and Dwight Howard‘s turnovers and free throws …

We would be talking about how brilliant Stan Van Gundy is as a coach, how Phil Jackson may have lost it, how Kobe Bryant‘s legacy will be a sad one, and where Dwight Howard may end up historically speaking in the pecking order of the NBA’s greatest big men.

Every stat would basically be the same, ever performance unchanged, but everything would be different had 2 high-percentage shots fallen… such little things, such huge consequences!

There are other “little” things we could discuss as well, calls, no-calls, substitutions, defensive efforts… small acts and decisions that ultimately ended up mattering so much.

For instance, at the end of regulation in game 2, what if when Courtney Lee was freed of his defender, Kobe Bryant, by a screen at the foul line Pau Gasol hadn’t rotated so hard to challenge Lee’s ally oop layin? And what if, at the end of regulation in game 4, when the best 3 point shooter in the NBA this year, Rashard Lewis, was freed of his defender by 2 screens and broke to the corner for an inbounds pass and a (short) corner 3, Pau Gasol didn’t leave his man to close out to deny Lewis the inbounds pass, forcing Petrius to put up that awkward miss at the buzzer?

Such little things, such huge consequences!

Of course now would not be the time for the Lakers to forget these lessons and relax, seeing how readily Orlando can challenge the Lakers.

The great philosopher, Anonymous, once said, “If you take care of the little things, the big things pretty much take care of themselves.”

You can see his point.

He also said, “The longer I live the more convinced I become that there is no such thing as a ‘little thing.'”

This has me thinking about things much more important than basketball… like my own goals… and how talk to my wife and children… and how I use my time.

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