Friday, June 19, 2015
Confucius Would Have Loved The Warriors
The following is a guest post from journalist, author and legendary local William Gee Wong.
If Confucius, China’s legendary ethicist, teacher, and philosopher who lived more than 2,500 years ago, saw the Golden State Warriors’ journey to a National Basketball Association championship, he would be pleased. The team embodied some of the great Chinese sage’s teachings.
For instance, one guiding principle of Confucianism is “social harmony,” which is defined as “every individual knowing his or her place in the natural order, and playing his or her part well.”
That is precisely what the Warriors did this season, especially during the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Directed by brilliant first-year coach Steve Kerr and his staff, team members, whether star starters like Stephen Curry or reserves like Andre Iguodala, knew their roles and played them well.
Selflessness was a hallmark of the Warriors this season. That is remarkable in a sport that worships superstar individualism.
One thing that Confucius was determined to eradicate was “egotism.” As egotistical as some of the Warriors’ stars could be, there was virtually no outward evidence of that through their championship season.
Other Confucianisms that apply to the Warriors are: “The humane man, desiring to be established himself, seeks to establish others; desiring himself to succeed, he helps others to succeed.”
Here’s another: “The gentleman seeks to enable people to succeed in what is good…”
I would say that all the Warriors who played a lot this season, particularly in the Finals, sought to enable each other to succeed, and were not self-absorbed in their individual accomplishments.
Yet another: A core Confucianism is something called “humaneness,” which is defined as a person "wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others."
Again, sounds like the 2014-2015 NBA Champion Warriors to me.
That includes Coach Kerr. When he played at the University of Arizona in the 1980s, Kerr grew into a sharpshooting guard specializing in the three-point shot. One of his former Arizona teammates told USA Today that Kerr “was just a great dude, in every way. You can say something good about somebody because they’re nice, but it was more than with Steve, it went deeper. He wanted the best in you, to help you find it.”
“He wanted the best in you, to help you find it.” If that doesn’t embody Confucianism, I don’t know what does.
Filial piety is another well-known Confucianism. Filial piety basically means being good to and respecting one’s parents. Another Confucian value is family loyalty.
Certainly one of the best feel-good features of watching the Warriors during their championship run were scenes of Stephen Curry’s father, Dell Curry, who played 16 seasons in the NBA; and his mother and wife cheering from the stands, and his cute-as-a-button daughter Riley stealing the show at post-game news conferences. Curry also explicitly acknowledged his father’s guidance and support.
Other Warriors’ players showed filial piety and family loyalty as well: Klay Thompson to his former NBA player father, Mychal; Harrison Barnes to his mom; and Draymond Green to his female elders, who told him to shape up after Green’s poor performances in the first three games of the Finals. Green listened: in the last three games, he played like the star he’s become.
While Coach Kerr didn’t say anything publicly during the recent playoff period, as far as I know, about his late father, Malcolm Kerr, I sense that his memory was always there.
Malcolm Kerr was a highly respected academic who was assassinated in 1984 in Beirut, Lebanon, where he was president of the American University. Steve Kerr was a freshman at the University of Arizona at the time.
The son quietly internalized the loss, but his respect for his father never wavered. He recently told the San Jose Mercury News, “I feel his full impact on my whole life. It’s there every day.”
Confucius would have embraced that sentiment.
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