A two-time NBA MVP teaches us about change

Several weeks ago I wrote about the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and how they were winning more games when their superstar, Kobe Bryant, passed more and shot less. The statistics showed that when Bryant had 6 assists or more, the Lakers were likely to win. So Kobe, who is known as a scorer, is doing more passing than he ever has before.

As Kobe has changed his style of play, there is another player on the Lakers who has had to change his game – point guard Steve Nash. Nash is one of the best point guards in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player. The point guard in basketball is like the quarterback in football. The point guard has the ball for much of the game. He brings the ball up the court and makes sure all players on the team are in the right position and know what play has been called. He controls the offensive tempo and tries to get the ball into the hands of the player who is most open for a good shot. The point guard is very involved and has a great deal of responsibility. Steve Nash thrives in this role and is considered one of the all-time great point guards.

But now that Kobe is running the offense more often, Nash has been forced to play a different role. Nash is playing more off-guard where he does not run the offense and, as a result, he has the ball much less than when he was the point guard. This would be a difficult adjustment for anyone, but especially challenging for a player who has won multiple MVP awards as a point guard. Many of us, I’m sure, would be offended, upset, angered, or disappointed if this happened to us. But Nash has shown incredible leadership through this time of change.

In an article in the USA Today this week, the Lakers General Manager, Mitch Kupchak, was quoted as saying, “His desire to figure out a way to make it work is remarkable. He’s always prodding, always making the sacrifice. Yet you have to catch yourself and say, ‘This is a two-time MVP.’ He could certainly say, ‘No, I’m not changing. You’ve got to do it my way.’ How many two-time MVPs are as accommodating as he is?”

His head coach, Mike D’Antoni, also acknowledged the sacrifice Nash is making for the team when he said, “…he’s hard to put into words because he’s the best you can be – with his teammates, with his coaching staff. He’s the best. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

When asked about his changing role with the team, Nash said, “I’m beyond playing for the credit or the adulation. I feel secure in myself as a player. I just want to help this team, regardless of what it means for me personally.”

Think about the tremendous leadership Nash has displayed this season.
1) He is modeling teamwork and unselfishness for the rest of the team to see. As leaders, if we sacrifice for our teams and model selflessness, we’ll build stronger, unselfish teams.
2) Change is difficult, but Nash is showing the flexibility to change, to adapt, and to reinvent himself. Change is inevitable. As leaders, we’ll face change constantly. We can react to change in a negative way or we can be flexible and react in a way that maximizes the opportunities presented by the change. If we react positively and are committed to figuring out a way to make it work, like Nash is, our organizations will move forward confidently through the change and come out stronger in the end.
3) Nash is secure in himself and acknowledges the need to change. He has the confidence to deal with this changing situation in a positive way. Secure leaders can accept the fact that they may not always have the answers, that they may need to change, that they aren’t perfect. Insecure leaders feel compelled to do everything right and have difficulty admitting they need to change. If you are secure with who you are and secure in your leadership, you will do what is best for the team, even if that means a personal sacrifice.

Steve Nash is setting a great example for us. He has been asked to sacrifice for the team and is doing so with a positive attitude and an open mind. Change is an inevitable part of life. How we react to change will determine how successfully we navigate through that change.

Thanks for reading,
Jim

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