Updated: Jun 5
I wouldn't be a worthy Torontonian if I didn't have something to say about the Toronto Raptors today. I'm no sports guru, far from it. So I won't comment on the technical reasons for the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship win last night. But as another sort of coach, I'd like to reflect on the mindsets and attitudes that helped these resilient, talented, and capable players take home their first championship in franchise history.
As I watched the players and coaches interviewed after the game, I was struck by where they attributed their success.
It wasn't dominance, expertise or destiny.
Instead, it was learning, humility, trust, hard work and teamwork that led to their epic win.
While the fireworks and horn-honking filled my ears, I took notes to make sure I captured their wisdom. (I may not have caught every word, so forgive me for any errors.) These ways of thinking and behaving can help us all achieve greater resilience and accomplishment in work and life.
Here are my take-aways from the Toronto Raptors about how to think like a champion.
1) Always be Learning
Nick Nurse, Head Coach of the 2019 NBA Champions, the Toronto Raptors was asked what it was like to win in the NBA after spending his career in the G-League. Nick said: "I didn't care what level I was coaching at or what my job title was. I was just looking to learn and get better. I never got frustrated coaching in all those little gyms. I just wanted to learn."
Originally from Cameroon, Pascal Siakam's debut as a rookie in the NBA was also the first NBA game he'd ever been to in person. When asked about how he developed as a player, he said, "I just tried to learn."
2) Be Humble
Fred VanVleet wasn't drafted to the NBA in 2016. Instead, he found his own path to NBA champion status. Fred's reflection on coming through when his team needed him most is so honest and humble. "I've had some ugly nights where it doesn't go in. I trust in myself, believe in myself. Trust the process and the work. There's not a book on how you close out a series. The ball just found me a couple times."
3) Trust Yourself
Kawhi Leonard, Winner of the Finals Most Valuable Player, commented on persevering through difficulties like past injuries and disputes with his former teammates by trusting himself. "A lot of people doubted me. They thought I was faking an injury or that I didn't want to play for the team. Going through that, I knew I had to make myself happy and no one else. And I have to trust myself. Doesn't matter what anyone says, just trust yourself. Know your goal, know your focus. Learn from situations and be wise."
4) Hard Work and Team Work
Kawhi, on being recognized as the MVP, said, "I just kept striving and pushing. I ended up with the trophy, but everyone deserved it."
When asked about the trust he has in his players, even when they have a bad night, Nick Nurse said: "You can't play great every game, but you can try to play hard."
Pascal Siakam's comments on hard work and teamwork were inspiring."Together we had this unit-- a bunch of guys who would go out there and work every day and try to be the best they could be. Everyone sacrificed everything for the team, for the greater good."
Danny Green's advice about re-orienting your thinking when you're not having a good night offers wisdom for us all. "I tried to do the little things and play for my teammates even when I wasn't having a good night."
So there you have it, folks.
Orient yourself to learning, be humble, trust yourself, work hard and play for the greater good. And you too can be a champ.