Since 1946 the Minneapolis/LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics have won a combined 32 Championships. By far the most successful franchises in NBA history, and with commanding leads in their respective Conference Finals series, it looks likely that they will be playing each other once again in the NBA Finals for the chance to be crowned Champion. How have these two franchises been able to consistently build teams capable of competing for and winning the NBA Championship?
Some teams are happy to make the Playoffs, some are happy to advance through a series and still others get excited about winning the Draft Lottery. The Lakers and Celtics are considered failures if they don’t win the Championship. The players, coaches and fans in Boston and LA go in to each season expecting to compete for a championship. This is because both teams were fortunate enough to start winning in the early days of the NBA, building some of the games greatest dynasties in the first 20 years of the Leagues inception. Once a team is a winner, it will always be considered a winner. Because of the high expectations, the teams come in to each season with a higher level of focus than most organisations. Management are always on the lookout for the next piece to improve their teams chances, regardless of how well they did the season before. The coaches are talking about a championship from the first day of training camp. The players don’t get excited about regular season games, individual accolades or beating their first round opponents in the Playoffs. From top to bottom, everyone involved in both organisations is focused on raising another banner. A championship is all that matters and this separates them from most other teams in the NBA.
Because these two franchises have built teams around some of the games greatest players, they are now fortunate to have some of the greatest mentors and coaches for their current players. Kevin Garnett came over from Minnesota and had Bill Russell in his face every day talking about defense and winning. Andrew Bynum came in to the League straight from high school and was taken under Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s wing, learning how to be a dominating presence in the post. Kobe Bryant gets advice about being a winner from legends like Jerry West and Magic Johnson. Even lesser known players like Danny Ainge and Brian Shaw are in the players ears, pushing them to play aggressive, hustle and work hard. When Bill Russell tells you to grab more rebounds or Magic Johnson is saying to play selflessly and share the ball, it has a lot more of an impact than when a coach says it.
Although a lot of factors play a part in building a winning culture, having high expectations, a belief in your team and the right influences around you certainly goes a long way in achieving this. As the Lakers and Celtics will soon be fighting each other for ownership of the 2010 NBA Championship banner, it seems to be working.