I just came across a fantastic example of putting the team before yourself. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a blog entry about leadership and how an integral quality of a leader is putting her/his own desires and ambitions second to the needs of the team as a whole. In a sense, it is having the attitude that they would rather win as a team and fail (or not look good) as an individual than have individual success yet see their team fail.
Last night (11-25-08) Loyola (Md.) was crushed in basketball by Davidson. Now, this was actually the anticipated result considering Davidson has the top scorer in the country (averaging 35 ppg. and has only ever not reached double figures twice in his career) and has a significant size advantage over Loyola. According to the article, the story isn't the win but how it happened.
A common defense utilized by teams when playing a team with a player that is heads and tails above the rest is a box-and-one where four players are in a zone defense and the "one" is playing a denial man defense against the star player. Loyola took this concept even further and decided to double-team Curry. Now, typically a double-team would consist of one person permanently guarding Curry and the other defenders covering him as well when he enters into their specific zone. It takes a lot of work for the defenders but it is designed to leave the farthest area of court unguarded... the area least likely to have a scoring opportunity at that particular moment. But Loyola's coach simply put two men on Curry and told them to stay with him. Early in the game, Curry was frustrated since he had trouble getting the ball through two defenders, but quickly he realized that this wasn't a match-up zone or a box-and-one but that he was simply being double-teamed.
So, what did the top college player in the nation, most likely the number one draft choice, do? He stood in the corner... literally. He would play hard defense and then, when he team would take possession, he would jog down the court and camp out in the corner, taking his two defenders with him and leaving a 4 on 3 advantage for his other teammates.
For the first time in his career, Curry was held scoreless for an entire game. His team won by 30 points. That is selfless. That is teamwork. That is leadership.