It all started with this Tweet:
“True or false: A player that makes a team great is more valuable than a great player.”
I posted this Tweet a couple of weeks ago to start some Twitter chatter.
When someone asked for an example, I said that “Dennis Rodman made his teams great… even though he wasn’t a great player.”
Wow. That ignited a firestorm of debate on whether or not Rodman was a great player.
For the record, I always enjoy a good debate…especially when it involves basketball. Debating sharpens your mind and sparks passion – two things I am a staunch advocate of. And I never have a problem with people disagreeing with my point of view. I respect and value everyone’s opinion. It’s all in good fun!
Let me summarize my point of view before I get to the real focus of this blog post – the value of specialists.
Let me clarify my comment about Dennis Rodman not being a great player: Every player in the NBA is a 'great' player by definition because they are in the upper .01% of everyone who plays the game. There are literally millions of players worldwide… and less than 500 will make an NBA roster each season. That alone makes them great.
Using that barometer, of course Rodman was a great player. But the word ‘great’ gets severely devalued if everyone is great. Bird, Magic, & MJ were 3 of the truly great players of that era… not Rodman. In fact, you could easily name another dozen players from the same time period (like entire Dream Team?) that deserve the ‘great’ moniker more than Rodman.
Rodman was a great rebounder.
Rodman was a great defender.
But he was not a great player.
Rodman was an integral piece to the puzzle. His teams would not have won all of those championships without him. He fulfilled his role at an unparalleled level.
I just returned from Springfield, MA and the Basketball Hall of Fame. Yes, Rodman was recently inducted and deservingly so. But he made it because he was a Hall of Fame caliber specialist… not because he was a great player (there is a distinction).
If I am not mistaken, Rodman never made the All-NBA 1st or 2nd team and he only made the All-Star team twice (neither as a starter).
Now, he did make the All-Defensive team 8 times and was the Defensive Player of the Year twice. He led the NBA in rebounds an astounding 7 times in a row and he won 5 NBA rings. He was a master specialist – tremendous rebounder and defender – but not a great (overall) player.
The original point I wanted to make, before getting sidetracked in semantics about Dennis Rodman, is that you don’t have to be a great player to help your team win. You just have to have a specialty that makes your team successful!
We have a notable example of that at DeMatha. Our 6th man, senior captain Marcellous Bell, has committed to play at Binghampton University next year on a full basketball scholarship. Marcellous is undersized (not quite 6 feet tall) and has average athleticism. He is an average ball handler, passer, defender, and rebounder. I certainly don’t say that to slight him, I say that because it is an accurate assessment.
But damn, can he shoot. He is a pure marksman. He’s one of the best pure shooters I’ve seen at the high school level. Right now he leads the entire DC area in 3-pointers made (at 3+ makes per game) and 3-point FG % (at 50+ % from behind the arc).
If he’s open you can go ahead and change the scoreboard.
In our game last night, he went 8 for 11… from 3. He came off the bench mid-way through the 1st quarter and hit his first four 3-point attempts… all before the 1st quarter was over. Do you think that gave our team a lift?
His specialty is shooting… and every team needs a knock down shooter. A player that commands respect from long range causes all sorts of defensive problems for the other team.
Marcellous isn’t a great shooter by accident. He’s worked at it. He’s put in the time. He’s practiced with a purpose for years. He made thousands and thousands of shots this past off-season.
He deserves every bit of his current success.
In addition to being a great shooter, he is also a tremendous teammate, another noteworthy specialty. He is one of the most selfless kids I have ever been around. He has a positive attitude, a ferocious work ethic, is a stellar student, and truly cares about his teammates, coaches, and the DeMatha program. Point blank – he makes our team better with his intangibles.
I have the utmost respect for him as both a player and a person.
What is the moral of the story? Whether its Rodman’s rebounding or Marcellous’ shooting, there is always room on a team for a player that has a specialty that helps their team be successful.
Respect the game,
PS: The newest edition of my FREE Basketball Nuggets (Volume 10) is now available for download:
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I hope to see you there!