“You can’t buy chemistry.”
No, not the science of matter. I’m pretty sure you can buy that, or at least enough materials to make it look like you’re a chemist.
This refers to team chemistry, that elusive, impossible-to-engineer science of sports teams and how players fit together.
There are two groups of people that make the above statement. The first group consists of those that utter it genuinely, in the belief that chemistry is an invaluable factor in a team’s success.
The second is made up of the people that say it snidely, often with a smirk or curled lip involved in some way.
These are the ones that would rather buy expensive free agents than develop prospects, the ones that completely discount chemistry as being simply a tool for winning.
No one argues that chemistry exists. The main question is, does it help you win? The answer? A definitive yes.
Take the Golden State Warriors. Coming off of one of the greatest seasons in franchise history, in which they won an NBA title, the Warriors came back this season and won 73 games, the most by any NBA team in any regular season, all the while with an easy, we might as well air to them.
Now, the Warriors are rolling through the playoffs, even with an injury to Steph Curry, their best player and the soon-to-be-repeat MVP.
Watching the Warriors, as I have all season, a few clues to their success become evident. First and foremost, they are really, really good.
The talent levels, both individually and as a team, are off the charts. Obviously without this level of talent, they probably would not have been able to accomplish what they have.
But this team has not become great off of talent alone: they have two other assets that have helped. This team loves to play basketball, and they love to play basketball with each other.
Scouts have called their chemistry “clockwork.” Warriors forward Andre Iguodala calls it “the flow.” On screen, what it looks like is pure joy. Forward Draymond Green passing dishing an assist to Curry, then smiling like it was he who just made the basket. Iguodala giving a half-shrug and smile after a Klay Thompson three-pointer.
These guys truly play for each other, and push themselves to do better, not because it looks good for them, but because they feel they owe it to their teammates, their friends.
Of course, not every team can have Warrior chemistry. For an example of what poor chemistry can do, I’ll go from the NBA’s best team to one of its worst: the Los Angeles Lakers. Granted, the Lakers weren’t supposed to be the greatest team ever this year: a panel of NBA experts on cbssports.com had them sitting at around 27 wins before the season started. However, several team chemistry blow ups occurred over the course of this season, the most notorious of which being rookie D’Angelo Russell’s recording of his teammate’s admission to infidelity. The result?
The Lakers came in at 17 wins on the season, the worst record in Lakers franchise history.
Not all teams with great chemistry win championships, and not all teams with poor chemistry are awful–I’m looking at you, 2014 Dodgers.
But it certainly helps to play with people you feel you owe your best to.
So, athletes: get to know your teammates. Find out what they’re all about. And play every game not for yourself, but for them.
You will perform better, both on your own and as a team.
And who knows? You might even have a bit more fun.
The Warriors sure do.