The Chemistry in Sports Debate – Chemistry… The Excuse When There Are No REAL Excuses

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

When Antawn Jamison catches a pass from LeBron James during a game, what thought do you think crosses his mind? Perhaps he is thinking, “I had a GREAT TIME playing Super Mario Wii with LeBron in the locker room last night. That guy is really cool, and I am glad to be a part of his team!” Probably not.

My guess is that he is instead thinking about whether or not he has an open shot, who he can get the ball to so they can take an open shot, or any other number of thoughts actually related to the game.

Team chemistry is nice. It allows teammates with great familiarity to add some flash to their game through understanding the slight subtleties of those teammates. When it is absent, the friction that can exist in the locker room may be difficult and unpleasant to deal with. It is not, however, a prerequisite for success.

People currently point to a disruption in the “chemistry” of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who, after trading Zydrunas Ilgauskas away for Antawn Jamison, have lost three games in a row. They will point to Jamison’s 0 for 12 debut as a member of the Cavaliers, will claim the Cavaliers had “a good thing going” and the Ilgauskas trade simply disrupted team chemistry, resulting in a three game slide.

The REAL problem, though, has not been a lack of chemistry. When breaking down the Cavaliers’ last three losses there are other MEASURABLE factors that come into play. The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets, for example, have the second-best records in the East and West Conferences behind the Cavs and the Los Angeles Lakers. Is it really THAT hard to believe that two of the four top teams in the league could beat another of the top teams in the league!?

The Cavaliers’ other loss during this three-game slide came against the Charlotte Bobcats. I know what you are thinking… ”The Bobcats are only 27-28 right now. They are CLEARLY not one of the best teams in the NBA. How do you explain that?!”

The explanation for that is quite simple. The Bobcats are just one of “those” teams that happen to have the Cavaliers’ number this season. It happens all the time in the NBA, where the better team on paper consistently fails to get results against one specific team (which is exactly why the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks got bumped out of the first-round of the NBA playoffs by the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors in 2007). Simply put, the Bobcats match up well against the Cavaliers. They have played four different times this season, and Charlotte holds the edge with a dominant 3-1 record. That means Charlotte managed to beat Cleveland two out of three games BEFORE the trade took place, when the Cavs’ so-called chemistry was intact. The Cavs were not losing because of a lack of chemistry. They lost because they faced equally skilled teams that are able to capitalize on the right matchups.

As further proof that chemistry is overrated and has no REAL impact on the game, look at the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000 through 2004. The relationship between teammates Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal was always contentious. After several inflammatory remarks made to the public during the 2003-2004 season, however, the “feud” boiled to a head. Nonetheless, a lack of chemistry did not stand in the way of the Lakers going on to win a total of THREE NBA Championships, with a FOURTH Finals appearance during the 2004 postseason, when tensions were arguably at their highest. Why? Because they are PROFESSIONALS.

The issue of whether or not the team has chemistry has very little (if anything at all) to do with whether or not those players can shoot baskets (or catch touchdown passes, hit homeruns, etc). At the end of the day, it was Shaq’s JOB to pass the ball to Kobe (and vice-versa), and it was the other’s JOB to convert that pass into points. Although the locker room atmosphere would have been more pleasant if everyone got along and had good chemistry, it did not impact their performance on the court one. Both executed their roles to perfection, and reaped the rewards of their success.

Similarly in your own workplace, there are most likely those whom you may get along with, and others whom you would prefer never to interact with. However, that contentious relationship should not impact your ability to successfully complete all of the tasks you are responsible for. Just because you do not like a person, or lack chemistry with a person, does not mean that you are unable to work together towards a common goal.

“Team chemistry” is a fluff phrase that the media trumpets to manufacture background and drama. When things are going good, the media plays up the entertainment factor of “how much fun” the athletes are having. Conversely, nothing incites a local sports audience more than finding out about some locker room conflict within their organization.

There is value in team chemistry only to the extent that it makes the workplace more enjoyable for the participants when it is present, and a lack of chemistry can create friction behind the scenes. It can augment other team circumstances (both good and bad), but it is hardly the cause for, nor is it the solution to, those circumstances.

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4 Responses to The Chemistry in Sports Debate – Chemistry… The Excuse When There Are No REAL Excuses

  1. seezy says:

    The Hawks lost team chemistry when they traded Dominique Wilkins for Danny Manning.

  2. Loyal Homer says:

    At that point in their careers, it’s debatable who was better. Manning was roughly 6 years younger than Nique. It’s no disrespect to Manning at all, but he walked into a no-win situation. The Hawks were built around Nique! He’d grown up through the Hawks system his entire career. You make a trade like that during midseason and no matter what you get in return, you upset team chemistry.

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