The Talking Series is a weekly segment that delves into the topics discussed by guests on the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast.
“Believe.” If you see this and can’t help but imagine the blue lettering and yellow plaque plastered on the locker room wall, you’re one of the millions watching the critically acclaimed Apple TV show Ted Lasso. If you haven’t seen it, “believes” is the catchphrase titled to the show’s character, a college football coach from Kansas, who brings him to his new role as coach of an England professional football team. Although skeptical at first, the players slowly realize that the motto is how the lasso approaches each day.
By the time JB Bickerstaff took over the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2020, he had been an assistant coach in the NBA for 16 years. He spent that time studying coaches he admired and taking notes on everything from offensive strategies to leadership philosophies. That’s when he learned that winning cultures requires strong principles. Shortly after taking the reins in Cleveland, Bickerstaff settled on five words he’d been using to build his team: “detail,” “toughness,” “together,” “competition,” and “another word.”
The effectiveness of Bickerstaff’s slogans stems from their straightforward approach, just like “faith.” After all, there is just something about simple wisdom that resonates. While accountability is the foundation of Cleveland’s philosophy, their slogans remind players that it’s about something bigger than themselves.
on me finale episode From the “Daily Warrior Men’s Podcast,” we chat with Coach Bickerstaff about making an impact, junk dog mentality, and more. He knows better than most that a shared understanding is essential to effective communication. “We go into the dictionary with the guys and look up the definition of each word [in the motto]Bickerstaff says. In this article, we look at those definitions and delve into slogans to help the Cavaliers write the next chapter of their story.
Defining success with the Cleveland Cavaliers
Definition: The small elements that together make up a work of art.
In sports, details are often the deciding factor between winning and losing. Although pivotal to success, there is another way to view the details. World-renowned visual artist and composer Christian Marclay believes that “art is in the details.” This is closer to how Bickerstaff defines the word and why he feels it is essential to success. “When you watch basketball done the right way…it’s beautiful,” Bickerstaff says. “It’s all the little things that create a beautiful work of art,” he adds.
Details are important for peak performance on game day. Great plays don’t just happen. He says they are the result of “the five men in court making a conscious decision”. While this is true, what seems so effortless during a game is countless hours spent obsessing over the details. However, when natural talent and pitch preparation come together, the beauty they create makes the work worth it.
Definition: The physical or emotional strength that allows a person to withstand stress or hardship.
Have you watched the NBA game before? Have you been to Cleveland before? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you know why the Cavaliers pride themselves on their toughness. If you haven’t and are wondering why the Bickerstaff included toughness in their team crest, the answer is simple: It’s what it takes to win. “It’s that grit…how you deal with adversity,” he says. “You have two options: fight or run… We don’t run,” he adds.
It should come as no surprise that the Cavaliers, a team that prides themselves on physical and mental toughness, has a post-game tradition honoring the player who lets it all out on the court. This prized tribute is known as the “junk dog chain,” a play on the team’s brave, LeBron-era nickname. “The best part is we don’t give it to the highest scorer,” says Bickerstaff, who introduced the ritual in February. “We give it to the guy who canceled the most.”
During the podcast, Bickerstaff gave us a rare close-up look at this prestigious award, which is legendary.
Designed by The Foundry at Jared, the industrial chain is crafted from 14k gold and rests on a giant C-shaped pendant. The front is set with 1,702 natural garnets, and the team logo runs along the bottom. The obverse honors fans by displaying Cleveland’s area code 216 and the city’s skyline, in celebration of the 2016 championship, and features several iterations of the logo.
Bickerstaff recognizes the potential of his young team and understands that fostering a pessimistic culture and “us against the world” mentality could be their path to greatness.
Definition: in the body: as a group or group.
In 1992, every kid wanted to be Michael Jordan, but no one wanted to be the Chicago Bulls. The reason is that the fans, the league and the sponsors love the stars. After all, they sell tickets and transport goods; Plus, it’s much easier for one man to fit into a box of Wheaties. The thing is, individuals don’t win championships, teams do.
Bickerstaff absorbed that lesson in the years he spent making his way. When his chance finally came, he focused on fostering a team-centered mindset, which began with putting the third guiding principle into their logo.
“growing up, [sports] It’s all about the individual, and the focus is on the kid who’s the best player,” Bickerstaff says. “Convincing people of something bigger than themselves means winning [their trust] By the way you communicate with yourself. This forms relationships and lets players know they can count on you every single day,” he adds.
Definition: Consciously striving for a goal.
If they describe the group together, rivalry is what they do. You can look at competition in a broad sense, but for the Cavs, it’s about more than the bottom line. “In every play, there is a battle that needs to happen. There are so many little moments of competition that you need to succeed in,” says Bickerstaff. You have to be willing to compete during every acquisition.”
When the average person hears competing, they automatically think of making the big plays. This is normal, but it’s also about so much more than that. Most of them don’t realize the courage it takes. Players open themselves up to criticism every time they take to the court, whether they’re on the Cavaliers or another major league team. The audience sees the magic of playing in the NBA but not the hard work and pressure that comes with it. “To deal with those moments; to be able to fail in front of everyone, and then come back tomorrow and do it again,” says Bickerstaff. “It’s not easy [and] It takes tremendous courage.”
The Fourth Principle is an excellent example of what makes the Cleveland logo so effective. On the surface, he seems simple and humble, but his wisdom is profound. While many choose the literal interpretation, Coach Bickerstaff’s team understands that competition also refers to having the character, strength, and courage to strive for excellence in everything they do.
5. One more
Rounding out the Five Principles is “One More”. Its place on the list is important, not because it is the least important but because it is the most important. It is the common thread that connects the other four. “It’s another shot, another rep, another spin, and another pass,” Bickerstaff says. And he adds, “One more is everything.”
That’s because repetition is crucial to success in both life and sports. Bickerstaff says that while the phrase is a reminder to make one more pass before shooting or to run another mile before stopping, it is also a vital part of their team’s culture and mentality. “If you are always ready to give one more, you will outpace your opponent.”
Not only does putting “one more” in practice have a positive impact on the team, but the outcome of that extra work can impact and inspire young fans to watch from the sidelines or on TV. “The three-point picture Darius Garland makes can change a child’s day,” says Koch. “Our guys are very aware of that, and that’s why we play the way we play,” he adds.
Next time you see the Cleveland Cavaliers make an extra pass or take another three-point shot, remember that “one more” makes all the difference.
Busy making believers
The five words were not very important in forming the identity of the team. In the All-Star League, the Cavaliers are a shining example of what basketball should be: the team. Bickerstaff’s genius is evident in the motto, which serves as a call to action to strive for excellence, integrity and character on and off the field. “those words [have] It allowed us to exceed everyone’s expectations,” says Bickerstaff.
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