Leadership is crucial to success in any team sport.
Take a look at past championship squads and you’ll likely find “heart and soul of the team” players on each one. Kobe Bryant, for all his supposed flaws, brings intensity and passion to the Lakers every night, while Derek Fisher is undoubtedly a huge locker room presence for the defending champions.
In 2007-08, Kevin Garnett completely changed the culture of the Boston Celtics, heightening the level of intensity and getting his teammates to play suffocating defense on a nightly basis.
One doesn’t need to be the best player on a team to be the leader – It can (and should) be argued that Paul Pierce was actually Boston’s best player – But every great team needs somebody, or a collection of guys, to step up and keep the others in check.
When Vince Carter played here, Charles Oakley was the guy who held him accountable. This was the CBC story during the 2001 playoffs:
“Vince Carter has to stand up and be counted on, teammate Charles Oakley said Tuesday, pointing the finger at the Toronto Raptors star for deflecting criticism over his lacklustre playoff performance.
“You can’t shy away from it now,” Oakley told reporters Tuesday following the Raptors’ practice.
“This is the time you have to step up and be a man about it. When they made the Dream Team, he went, all 12 of us didn’t go.”
Ahh, gotta love Oak. And the fact is, it worked, if only for a short time.
So, who will take control of the locker room this season?
It has been assumed for the past few years that Chris Bosh is the leader of the Toronto Raptors. He’s the best player on a team that has been mostly devoid of veteran talent. Fans certainly expect a lot from Bosh, both at the end of games, and off the court. He’s been slowly growing into the role, though it’s a lot to ask from a 25-year-old, who is also asked to shoulder the bulk of scoring and rebounding. It’s also semi-unrealistic to give your power forward the ball with the game on the line – Garnett had the same problems before life with Pierce.
But now, as Arsenalist of Raptors Republic writes, things might be changing:
“The question of leadership often comes up and this year’s team appears to be very mature as Ryan pointed out in the interview. Jarrett Jack, Reggie Evans, Antoine Wright, Jose Calderon and Rasho Nesterovic are no-nonsense players that can keep this group in check when things start going south. We don’t have to look towards Bosh to be the leader anymore; if one of the above players can take charge of this team, maybe it’ll lift the pressure off of Bosh and he can perform in his contract year.”
I think he’s right, but with that said, it’s time to ask…Who will step up as the leader (or leaders) of this year’s team?
Who should step up?
And, if he’s really worth a max contract, should that guy be Chris Bosh? Or does Bosh need someone, like Oakley, to light a fire under him?