Faith, Family, Country, Sports

Archive for the tag “John Wooden”


Team First

“…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:2-4

Teams come in various shapes and sizes. An entire football team could have 80 plus players on the sidelines while a basketball team might have 15 or so. Relay teams in track and swimming consists of four while two can make a team in tennis, beach volleyball, golf (best ball), figure skating and even professional wrestling (The Minnesota Wrecking Crew – those from the 80s will know).

As these teammates strive to improve personally, they must also work in coordination with each other to attain maximum success (whatever that might ultimately be – usually getting the most out of their potential).

Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden was an expert on team success. He guided the Bruins to 10 NCAA basketball national championships from 1964-1975. Of the many great insights on “team,” this might be his best:

“A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group for the good of the group, that’s teamwork.”

In 1978-79, the Los Angeles Lakers won 47 games and finished third in the NBA’s Pacific Division. Enter Ervin “Magic” Johnson, the NBA’s number one draft pick from Michigan State University. 

During his rookie season, the celebrated Johnson wasn’t the team’s leading scorer (3rd) nor its top assist man (2nd). He was, though, the ultimate team player and the contagious excitement from the 6’9” ball handling wizard immediately made everyone around him better. 

As a team, the Lakers improved in points per game, assists, team rebounds and field goal percentage. Individually, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Norm Nixon and Jamaal Wilkes saw their scoring averages go up. Even the attendance at the “Fabulous Forum” rose from 482,611 to 582,882. A team was solidified and “Showtime” was born.

More importantly, Los Angeles netted 60 victories, 13 more than the prior season, and won the 1980 NBA Championship. Why? Because the missing link chose not to make himself the most important one. 

The greatest team player in all of history is Jesus Christ! He was the first to wear a t-shirt with “TEAM” in large capital letters and “me” in the smallest of font sizes. 

Paul captured Christ’s essence when he wrote:  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

The “Great I Am” had every reason to make it all about Him since He created it all in the first place. 

He didn’t.

After turning water into wine, Jesus didn’t pull a Sharpie from his robe and sign the miracle holding basin. He didn’t take a selfie with the blind man He gave sight to or go on Instagram live when raising Lazarus from the dead. After three days in the grave, Jesus didn’t Tweet, “I’m back!”

It wasn’t about Him; He is about us.

Knowing the coming carnage Calvary would offer, Jesus courageously put team in front of self. He spent His time in the garden praying to his Father “…that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22). For that to happen, Jesus had to “…continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26).

So, Jesus “valued” us more … than Himself. 

He took the humiliation, the sharp crown of thorns, the brutal whipping and the nails – each with our names on them.  He took our sin. He took our death so we might live. 

Team. First.


Each of us are members of one or many teams that include family, spouses, friends, school or the workplace. Are we willing to humble ourselves, put aside our wants for the good of others and the glory of Christ?

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: