Leadership is one of those intangible qualities that always gets mentioned when people discuss the keys to success in team sports. Everyone seems to agree that leadership is crucial, but it's difficult to characterize and impossible to quantify. Plenty of reasonable minds will disagree on the particular methods that create the best environment for success.
I've been thinking about what leadership in the NBA means ever since watching "The Last Dance," which, you may recall, chronicled Michael Jordan's basketball exploits and occasionally stopped along the way to show him terrorizing his Bulls teammates, who admitted to being afraid of him.
"Winning has a price, and leadership has a price," Jordan says at one point, in defense of his methods. "When people see this, they're going to say, 'Well, he wasn't really a nice guy, he may have been a tyrant.' Well, that's you. Because you never won anything."
It's an incredible line that captures Jordan's ethos as succinctly as anything we see or hear in the 10-hour documentary. It also reflects a reductive worldview. The ends Jordan achieved may have justified the means by which he achieved them, but surely intimidation and fear aren't the only motivational tools that can be used to get the most out of one's teammates. Right?
To get some insight into that question, I wanted to talk to someone who has won something. A lot of things, in fact. Someone who's done basically nothing but win since he entered the NBA: Danny Green.
In all but one of Green's 12 NBA seasons, the team he's played for won 50 or more games; in all but two, his team finished the regular season as a top-two seed in its conference. He's on track to hit both of those benchmarks again this year with the Philadelphia 76ers.