A couple weeks ago, I was playing in a league game at Chelsea Piers, and we our team came back in the 2nd half from 20 down and tied up the game with about 2 minutes left in the game.
Our team was on a roll. We all could feel the momentum in the game shifting to our side, and victory was in sight. After a few free throws here and there, the other team was up by 1, they had the ball with about 30 seconds left to go, and we needed stop to get the ball back and hopefully score on our end.
The whole game, I was guarding a small guard who was smaller but faster than I was. Plan in simple, he was quick. I like these mismatches because it forces me to play lower to the ground, and makes me move quicker on defense as well. I wanted to guard him, and shut him down. As the clock started winding down, our opponents started their halfcourt offense at the top of the 3. My man did a quick back door cut to the basket, and I was half a second too late to recover and my man gets a more or less uncontested layup to put his team up by 3.
I was furious, mostly with myself for being stubborn and telling myself I could guard this guy. About half way through the half, one of my teammates came over to me on a time out and asked if I wanted to switch since my man was beating me on a few plays and I simple could not keep up. In these cases, most guys never want to admit that they are getting “beat,” especially if the guy is not a superstar athlete where it’s clear that one player is better than the other. Most guys (myself included), want to accept the challenge and try to overcome any doubts about their physical abilities.
In these times, when the game is on the line, we need to put the team before ourselves because I saw the disappointment in all my teammates after my man made the layup and then the team going on to win the whole game. I have never single-handedly lost a game for my team in such a clear way, it ate at me for the next few days.
Putting the team above yourself is always something I struggle with because I want to control my own fate, in how the game is played and how the game is won or lost. In these cases, it is easy to get completely irrational about the situation, and let your ego take over the game rather than what makes sense strategically.