When the owner of the Golden State Warriors Joe Lacob pronounced in 2016 that the their organization was “light years ahead” of the rest of the teams in National Basketball Association, he was onto something. The past two years have proven that the “Dubs” are the best team in the league by winning multiple championships and shattering many of basketball’s longest standing records.
What fascinates me about this team’s achievements, though, is not about the trophies won or records broken—it’s the way they did it. And the way they’ve done it is what also has many people scratching their heads and starting to admit that the Warriors may just be in a dimension all their own, one that reflects a new possibility for how people can work together and interact in any context.
Below the surface of their success is a unique kind of culture—an organizational consciousness that has found a way to transcend all the big egos, mega-million dollar contracts, and emphasis on personal glory that seems to define professional sports these days. It is this consciousness that creates an ethos of team-first sharing, agile adaptation, and playing for the love of the game that sets them apart from everyone else.
Even though I’m not a huge sports fan, the Warriors caught my attention because I see them living and playing out on the court the very same consciousness of shared unity and a higher order of relatedness that we are cultivating and stabilizing within the Evolutionary Collective.
The Warriors represent something new—a new paradigm that is the next evolutionary wave of consciousness. It goes beyond the personal and the individual, and stretches us into a space of a living, dynamic and powerful unitive awareness that can only come into being when we engage it together.
The way that the Warriors are playing from the consciousness of this new paradigm is literally re-shaping everything from the way the game is played to how the big business of basketball is run. Imagine the implications and possibilities if that consciousness took over in corporations, in politics, not to mention in our personal day-to-day lives.
Based on my work within the Evolutionary Collective exploring the higher levels of adult development and entering into sustained experiences of shared unity, here are five ways I can track that the Warriors culture represents a new paradigm in basketball and beyond:
- Collective Over Personal Glory: The Warriors motto is “Strength in Numbers,” and it’s a selfless philosophy they take very seriously, both on and off the court. On the court, they play the most unselfish basketball in the NBA (see the next point), in which 6 players who are or have been superstars in their own right (including two league MVPs) are willing to sacrificing being “the man” for the sake of playing team basketball. When the Warriors signed their latest superstar, Kevin Durant, in the summer of 2016, Steph Curry (who had just won two consecutive league MVP awards) famously told him that he would be sitting in the first row cheering for him if he were to win the 2017 MVP award. Off the court, this same selflessness is seen in players and management making enormous sacrifices to keep the team together, including superstars taking big pay cuts in order to make sure everyone gets their fair share (virtually unheard of in pro sports) and management paying extra “luxury” taxes in order to “keep the band together.”
- Sharing: When it comes to their style of play, there may be nothing more reflective of the Warriors collective approach to the game than their almost ridiculous willingness to share the ball, or in BBall parlance “assist” each other. Prior to the Warriors ascendance, the NBA had become an isolation game featuring primarily one or two players involved in the action. But the Warriors have bucked that trend and started one of their own, instilling an offense in which thrives on passing to whoever has the best shot. Within their system, some of the world’s greatest players frequently pass up open shots to find a teammate with an even better one! This “whatever works” mentality represents a new capacity and makes the Warriors the most exciting team to watch!
- Playing As One: In his 2012 book, Evolutionaries, Carter Phipps describes the mentality of former NBA superstar Steve Nash: “Nash’s amazing gift –his adaptive knowledge, we might say—is his capacity to transform the disparate individuals on his team into a cohesive unity, to turn five capable players into a sort of superorganism of basketball that can accomplish things five individuals would never dream of.” It’s no wonder that Nash has been a close consultant to the Warriors, and their leader Steph Curry in particular, over the past few seasons. The thing about the Warriors is that they have a whole roster of players who have adopted Nash’s “superorganism” mentality. The Warriors culture is known for pulling the best out of their players, regardless of their talent or experience. This allows each person’s innate capacities to be supported and actualized, mutually empowering each other as opposed to competing with each other. When people are doing this, what can’t they do?
- Evolutionary Attitude: The Warriors play basketball like jazz musicians play music. . . it’s improvisational, dynamic, and always changing and evolving. In a recent ESPN article, the Warriors style of basketball was described as “something beautiful, a carousel of passes and movement, all of it driven by intuition.” Some have attributed it to the fact that their owner, Joe Lacob, hails from Silicon Valley where constant evolution, agility, and input are held as high virtues. A NY Times article calls Lacob the first to operate according to what might be called Silicon Valley precepts: “nimble management, open communication, integrating the wisdom of outside advisers and continuous re-evaluation of what companies do and how they do it.” This evolutionary mentality imbues the Warriors from the court to the management office and represents a new cutting-edge orientation at the leading edge of culture.
- Playing for the Joy of the game: One aspect of the Warriors culture that people cite most is the joy that pervades everything from their on-court play to their locker room banter. While they are deadly serious about the game, they’ve found a way to make sure that everyone remembers that the game is just a game. This creates an atmosphere of lightness and joy that elevates everyone into new heights of possibility that just can’t be achieved from even the most intense competitive spirit. Many attribute this to Curry’s unique kind of leadership, which is always grounded in a love for the game. This mentality moves the Warriors play into a kind of art form.
This kind of consciousness has a noticeable ripple effect. Playing together inside the joy of the game against the Cavaliers in Game 4 created something much more than a competition—both teams played from somewhere far beyond their individual strengths and egos and were brought into a much greater possibility for their teams and for the game of basketball itself. If you’ve ever been to a Warriors game, either on the court, at a friends house, or at a bar that has the game on, then you’ve experienced how the whole room gets swept away in the passionate spirit of joyful participation and cooperation that’s being embodied on the court.
The most amazing thing about the Warriors is that they are now having a huge influence on the way that not only the rest of the league approaches the game, but inspiring a whole new generation of basketball players to tap into their own selflessness on the court. That’s the biggest evidence that they represent a new paradigm of basketball, business, and potentially in how human beings can function together. Having worked for over a decade now to pull this new paradigm of consciousness through the cracks of existence and bring it forth into human experience, it’s exciting and inspiring to see the real impact it has as it shows up in the world.