Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Get-Mine vs.Team-First

**Originally appeared on SLAM Online February 7th, 2012**

  As a hooper, you learn to balance the 'get mine' attitude with the 'team first' attitude early in your career.

  Then, if you're fortunate enough, and the game takes you overseas as a professional, the balancing act takes on a whole different meaning. Because at that point, your livelihood is on the line.

  Americans, both male and female, have been coming across the pond for decades to continue their playing careers on foreign soil. Through those years, thousands of players have provided fans, GMs, and coaches in Europe with certain expectations that continue on today.

  See, Americans playing in Europe have a certain reputation. One of being a scorer, a shooter, a me-first player, and probably even selfish. It's no secret that general managers in Europe bring in Americans to bolster their team's scoring attack, so it's no wonder that the 'me-first' American reputation developed over time.

  But it's a slippery slope.

  On one hand you have to live up to those expectations. If scoring is what they want, then scoring is what you need to give them. Otherwise, GMs have no problem finding another American who will happily fill your roster spot (and take your paycheck). Many times, Americans (or foreigners) are at the top of their team's pay scale. So you can imagine, GMs and fans want to see results on the court.

  Naturally, that creates pressure on the player to perform.

  But if, by trying to live up to those expectations, you become too selfish, shoot too much, play too much 'on your own', it's easy to see how that becomes detrimental to the team. And that's one thing you can never do: put your own performance ahead of your team's.

  I've been in the crowd at men's games, when you start to hear grumbling from fans on those days when a certain American isn't performing up to par. Or on the other hand, when he's seemingly out to only 'get his'.

  It's then, that I wonder what comes out of the mouths of fans at my games. And as much as you try to avoid newspapers, there's always that time when you find out what that headline or article, aimed at you, means.

  Over the years, I've learned you can't please everyone. Play to your own expectations. No one else's. Enjoy your time on the court, and of course play hard. Hustle and heart make up for any mistakes that will undoubtedly be made.

  Above all, just like it is everywhere in the world, winning trumps everything. So do your damnedest to find that balance. Because regardless of what you do on the court, if, at the end of 40 minutes, your team is on top, you're going to be just fine.


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