I have to admit it. I love watching Stephen Curry play basketball. With Curry on the court, the game is more exciting and more fun! He’s redefining the game for the better, and this year, Stephen Curry is this year’s undisputed NBA MVP. In a unanimous vote, he was chosen as the most valuable player. Take that in for a moment. The most valuable player in the entire NBA.
For me, that’s a lot to take in. One of the things I like about it the most is that the award is the most valuable player, not the best player. It may seem like a slight difference, but it’s substantial to me. The title “Most Valuable Player” begs the question–most valuable to whom? I tend to think it’s to his team. The organization. The teammates. The fans.
The most valuable player is more about his team than about himself.
The most valuable player represents the name on the front of his jersey–not his name on the back.
The most valuable player makes others better around him.
And it’s clear to everyone who is watching that Curry does just that. He makes success about the team. He represents the organization and team above all. He makes everyone else better around him.
Watching the comments from Curry’s press conference accepting the award, I couldn’t help but think that there is a lot we can learn from him as educators. These four ideas stuck out to me as great reminders for educators who want to want to be the most valuable member of their team–not for a trophy, but to serve others well and put the best opportunities in front of our students and teachers.
Be the Unexpected Leader
Early on, Curry’s head coach, Steve Kerr, commented that Curry’s “own mom didn’t even know if [he] would make it in the league.”
I love that.
How unlikely is it that someone who was passed over for scholarship after scholarship was even to have a chance at playing in the NBA, much less end up as MVP? But Curry doesn’t seem to be one who needs permission or a road map. And we would do well to follow his example. We should be more willing to take the lead, figure it out, and stop listening to the reasons why we shouldn’t do something. There are too many of them. We can’t afford to let them keep us still. Move forward, defy the odds, and lead from where you are.
Push Through Failure & Celebrate Success
Curry’s head coach, Steve Kerr, followed up with a comment on how much Curry struggled the night before. Curry, a prolific 3 point shooter to say the least, missed his first ten 3-point attempts. Not good. But, as Kerr describes, “he made the 11th and shimmied down the sideline.”
Our work is full of this. (Or if it’s just me who experiences this, someone find a gentle way to break the news to me.) Even when we’re operating in our strengths, there are times when the success feels pretty far away. As I watched Curry throughout this game, he never hung his head, never felt sorry for himself. He kept pushing forward, stepping into his role after missed shots, and putting up the next shot that made sense. An MVP keeps pressing forward into what’s right. Don’t let obstacles slow your progress.
Take Inspiration From the Team
Selfless leadership is really important to me. There are a lot of leaders who lead so that they are front and center, so that the attention is on them (along with the credit for a team’s hard work). I really respect Curry’s genuine comments to his teammates. For a guy who is the unanimous MVP to come out and say to his teammates, “You guys inspire me to keep getting better,” I’m impressed. I think it’s important to remember that leading from this sort of posture isn’t just a nice caveat or a feather in Curry’s cap; it’s a prerequisite for being a leader who is this effective.
Aspire to Excellence
Before Curry’s press conference concluded, he shared one final goal: “Let’s win a championship.”
I think that his perspective, one driven out of a pursuit of excellence, pursuit of being the best, is one we should emulate. “Good enough” teaching isn’t good enough. If we are content to sit on our laurels and rest easy as we determine how much to push those around us to be the best, we aren’t going to accomplish what our students deserve. We owe it to our students (and leaders–we owe it to our teachers) to give our all in pursuit of excellence.
One last note–I think there is a lot that we can learn from Stephen Curry’s response to his MVP award. But it’s important for me to remember that for all the attention he will (and should) receive after winning this award for a second season in a row, he never set out to to accomplish this as his goal. He’s aspiring to something far higher than individual gains here. He’s aiming for the greater good. He’s aiming for the best for his people. And he’s just being himself the whole time he’s doing all of that.
As you finish our the year, I hope we will, too. There are too many who will benefit along the way for us to give anything less than our best.