For the next couple weeks, between the NCAA playoffs and the regular NBA season games, basketball fans like me will relish the daily dose of both young and seasoned athletes exhibiting extraordinary skills on the court. I love this game and the excitement around it this time of year. And one of the things I enjoy more than seeing my favorite teams win is seeing how they win. Good basketball games are fast-paced, and when the score is tight and the clock is winding down, you see talent and teamwork at its finest.
One of my absolute favorite illustrations of that teamwork is the Dream Team – the 1992 Olympic men’s basketball team that brought together some of the greatest players the game of basketball will ever know. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Larry Bird, John Stockton, Karl Malone … just amazing.
They were coached by Chuck Daly, who was the head coach of the Pistons at the time. He had a couple of championships under his belt, and even though he built a roster of all-stars, he knew that didn’t make them invincible. In fact, his biggest concern from the start was how to get this team of all-stars to shelve their egos and play as a team.
Chuck had an idea. He had his group of NBA greats scrimmage against a team of NCAA college players just before their first Olympic qualifying game. And even though it’s still pretty hard to fathom, they lost. This team of incredibly gifted NBA players lost – and it was embarrassing. How did it happen? Chuck threw the game. He didn’t make adjustments or sub players. He just let them go for it out there on the court – awkwardly, disjointedly and, at times, even sloppily, each athlete playing to his own rhythm.
Chuck wanted them to see and experience that anybody can get beaten. Even a team of all-stars. He reminded them they would be competing against international players who were even better than the college players who’d just delivered that embarrassing loss. And he wanted them to be clear that they always have to be ready to play and play well.
So they got serious. Michael Jordan went to every single player and vowed he’d check his ego at the door, and he wanted them to do the same. They started practicing really hard and had some knock-down, drag-out scrimmages in Monte Carlo. Sportswriters have even described those scrimmages as some of the best games we’ll never see. Those relentless practices and their collective, unwavering focus removed the walls. Rivalries disappeared. They became friends and solid teammates.
By the time the team arrived in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympic Games, they were beyond prepared. That summer, the world watched their hard work and team dynamic pay off. In fact, they dominated every game, winning by an average of 50 points over their opponents. And, of course, you know the rest … Team USA walked away with the gold and a crushing record.
I enjoy reliving this story every time I happen to catch The Dream Team documentary on ESPN. It’s inspiring, and it makes me think about our very own all-star dream team at Texas Children’s. We have unparalleled nurses, physicians, employees, leaders and facilities, and we have an incredible reputation. But we do not rest and rely on that reputation. We work hard daily to elevate children’s and women’s health care to the next level.
I like this story about the Dream Team because, well, I love basketball. But secondly, it really is the ultimate example of how relentless determination, work ethic and teamwork pay off. It reminds us that as good as we are individually, we are exceptional as a team. And it’s about not losing focus just because you’re ahead of the game. Leads can vanish. Anyone can be beaten. We must always maintain our focus and commitment to Texas Children’s mission. We can never underestimate or be unprepared for the inevitable challenges that lie ahead. Ours is One Amazing Dream Team, and we’ve got to stay ready to play.