A Spike Lee Guide to Succeeding in the NBA
Renowned filmmaker and New York Knicks superfan Spike Lee is one of the most recognizable figures in the NBA world, and basketball love is in his blood.
Raised in Brooklyn in the 1960s and a lifelong Knickerbocker supporter, Lee has witnessed generations of hoops stars and rubbed shoulders with countless NBA legends and champions. He's literally enjoyed a front row seat to some of the most iconic games and series in basketball history.
Naturally, Madison Square Garden's poster boy and the director of He Got Game knows a thing or two about what makes a great player and a great team.
We put together some of his best opinions, quotes and videos and assembled the "Spike Lee Guide" to NBA success.
The Importance of Star Power
Whether it's beloved Knicks like Walt Frazier, Bernard King and Patrick Ewing or respected rivals like Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan, Lee knows the value of having a bona fide star to lead a team.
While he has always pointed to Michael Jordan as the ultimate star and champion, Lee cherishes the entertaining scorers New York has offered.
He was mesmerized by Bernard King's scoring prowess, and, at the end of this tribute to King, he suggests that Carmelo Anthony is a worthy leader of the Knicks' franchise:
Although Lee values his stars, he also knows that most NBA teams can't survive without solid defense and a strong sense of cohesiveness.
The "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons, the 1990s Chicago Bulls, the 2000s San Antonio Spurs and today's Miami Heat all excelled defensively, and he sees that kind of defense as the next step for his Knickerbockers.
In an interview with Oliver Franklin of GQ.com, Lee explained that the Knicks have developed the necessary cohesiveness and defensive potential to contend for a title:
Coach Woodson had a full pre-season camp to install everything he wants to do, to stress defence and instill the whole team concept that everything has to be sacrificed to win. That's what any great coach is going to tell their players, I don't care what sport you're in - if you want to win, sacrifices have to be made.
So what the Knicks have now is a team playing together as a cohesive unit. They all would run through a brick wall for coach Woodson.
It might seem like Lee is asking for too much: a high-scoring, entertaining star and a team that also grinds out wins with defense.
But when you think of some of the best scorers in the modern-day NBA, like Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, you realize that they find a way to lead their teams to dominance on both ends of the floor.
Don't Take Any Team Lightly, Including Your Own
A couple of superb quotes from Lee highlight his emphasis that games aren't won on paper.
In reference to an upcoming game against Detroit, he reminded us of the importance of staying focused against all opponents: "I know it sounds like a cliché - you can't take your opponent lightly or you lose."
In a radio interview with Power 106 FM Los Angeles prior to the 2012-13 season, Lee stressed that it's equally significant to have confidence in your own team, no matter how much the opposition is favored.
When asked what it feels like to know that his Knicks won't make it to the Finals, he provided a simple reply: "You gotta play the game."
His words sound wise now, especially because New York has out-played everyone's expectations and has an outside shot to contend for a title. Preseason doubters wrote the Knicks off completely, but Lee warned them that the games aren't played in the offseason.
Loyalty to City and Team Identity
Not only is Spike Lee the most loyal Knicks fan you'll meet, he expects the players to be loyal to the team's identity and the city to be loyal to the team.
"Orange and Blue" is the theme of his fandom, and those colors are sacred to him.
He might not expect a player to stay with the same club for his entire career, but Lee expects him to show loyalty to the team's identity during his time on the squad.
Just ask New York newcomer Pablo Prigioni, who got an earful from Lee when trying to get away with wearing purple and yellow kicks:
His encounter with Prigioni was a friendly one, but make no mistake: Lee takes loyalty seriously.
He demands that the ownership, players, fans and city battle under one flag and take pride in the pursuit of basketball success.
Lee isn't a master of strategy or the most qualified basketball mentor. However, the experience and perspective he's gained over the years applies profoundly to NBA front offices, coaches, teams, players and fans alike.
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