defense wins championships…

except when it doesn’t.

I’ve never understood, or agreed with one of the most cliched adages in sports: defense wins championships.  The LA Lakers won three titles by finishing first, first and second on offense.  Ray Lewis has the same number of rings as Kurt Warner, and one less Superbowl appearance.  There are great offensive players that never win championships, and great defensive players who also retire without rings.

My problem with the statement is that its deeply conservative.  Sports, like life, should reflect a diversity of thought and method. The diversity of style is, I think, why people love college sports despite the fact that it is an inferior product. Defense wins championships is often invoked to shut down serious considerations of creativity at sports highest levels.

Hardwood Paroxysm makes this point in a wonderful post comparing Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni to Heath Ledger’s Joker:

The crux of what the Joker says in that speech [to Harvey Dent] is that there is a perceived way to function in the world, and when you threaten that, people’s fear overcomes them and drives them to irrational behavior….

D’Antoni has tapped into something ethereal that exists in players that tend to falter in traditional systems. Players that are made of athleticism and style, but little toughness or resolve. He is, somehow, able to tap into something philosophical with his teams and bring out the best in players that previously had nothing resembling a “best.” He does so by feeding what many consider the worst parts of them previously. He takes their little world and he turns it in on themselves. It’s fun. And it’s tempting. It’s that chaos being introduced to a system. And from a player’s standpoint, it allows them to freelance and always look to score. It’s… fair.

Sports is truly egalitarian, its fair and also unbounded and to reduce it to a trite formula is to hinder our appreciation of the medium.

Gracias, truehoop

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