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What Trump could have learned—but didn’t—from the Warriors


The parade celebrating the Golden State Warriors’ NBA championship was just two blocks from my home in Oakland, so of course I went.

The day was warm, the sky blue, the breeze gentle. As many as 1-1/2 million members of Dub Nation gathered along the route, which ran from downtown Oakland, up Broadway to Grand Avenue, then to the convention center along beautiful, sparkling Lake Merritt. Oakland has had its share of woes over the years, but yesterday was all about joy, as it was two years ago, when the Warriors also won.

Much has been made in sports reporting of the key to the Warriors’ success. As coach Steve Kerr pointed out, talent is necessary, but you need more than that. The Warriors are famous for not letting any one man be the leader. Steph Curry himself pointed this out in his talk at the post-parade rally. Give your teammates room to shine. They in turn will give you room to shine, and together, the team will shine.

In improvisational comedy, we have a similar view. See your performance colleagues as poets and geniuses—meaning you do whatever it takes to make them look good. Then they do the same for you. When it all works right, you have a fantastic troupe: a team in every sense of the word. One comic might star tonight; tomorrow night, someone else will. Over time, everyone gets to star; everyone feels like a star. And the real star is the troupe.

Success in basketball, or in performance, or in anything entails risk. There can’t be a winner if there’s not a loser. You have to put your ego on the line to be greater than yourself. Draymond Green, in his rally speech, expressed this when he said, “The further away you get from risk, the further you get from reward.” Being mediocre—in the center of the pack, along with everyone else—is safe. Taking chances is risky, and so is giving your teammate his moment to shine, even if you think it’s your turn; that is part of Steph Curry’s generosity. Being true to yourself, it turns out, is about selflessness.

What a contrast to the way this current president runs his team. Think about that bizarre Cabinet meeting Trump had the other day, the kissing of the ring (or the posterior) ceremony in which his secretaries exalted him, in an embarrassing show of abasement unprecedented in our history. Trump sat there, soaking it in, like some banana republic generalissimo being sworn unfailing fealty by his warlords. This is a man who famously needs to be in charge, needs to dominate. In his narcissism, he cannot abide the thought of sharing the glory with anyone else. He needs to be Number One, the smartest guy in the room, the center of attention–the hog. Trump doesn’t make others look good; he demands they make him look good, while he makes them look ridiculous, as he did in that farce of a Cabinet meeting.

Had Donald Trump been watching the Warriors march their way to basketball history, he might have learned that being humble is one ingredient of teamwork. He might have learned that, if you want to have a friend, you need to be a friend. He might have learned to “put the team into superteam.” He might have heard Steve Kerr talk about his four core values: joy, mindfulness, compassion and competition–lessons that are being learned by everyone from CEOs to high school coaches. Trump might have learned, in short, how to be a decent human being.

But Trump doesn’t appear to know how to learn, or to be interested in being decent. In his paranoia and egotism, his almost sociopathic disdain for others, he knows how to do only a few things well: Bully. Intimidate. Threaten. Lie. Insult. Fire. This is why Steve Kerr leads a winning team, while Trump’s is going down.

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