Together on the court; together off the court. That's the recipe for success for the 2009-2010 Boston Celtics. While it's clear that these players are clicking with each other on the court, it's how they treat each other off the court that makes them more than just teammates, but brothers.
Brought in by Doc Rivers during the 2007-08 banner season, the philosophy known as Ubuntu has played a major role in the recent success of the Boston Celtics. Whether it's the extra pass for the easy basket, or the help defense that Boston is known for, Ubuntu is everywhere. Fans and returning players of the Boston Celtics are very familiar with the term by now.
But what about the new guys on the team? It's not like Ubuntu is practiced by many, if any, other NBA teams. You can't expect them to grasp the concept of Ubuntu at such an early stage in the season, can you?
Yes, you can.
Rivers, along with last year's returning players, have made it clear early on that Ubuntu is returning, after what some might call a brief hiatus last season. While it is still very early in the season, all signs point toward the "togetherness" that Ubuntu preaches.
"In Africa, a guy was driving through the country and had no food and water," Celtics rookie Lester Hudson explained. "He stopped at a village, but didn't have to ask for food or water- they gave it to him without him asking- so that was a sign of generosity."
Hudson was told by Rivers to do a presentation of what Ubuntu means. Hudson researched the origin and its meaning and presented his findings to the team shortly before the start of the regular season.
"It's like one team, all together for one goal," Hudson explained. "I see it all the way. Everybody is helping each other, everybody is doing their role, whenever somebody needs another, we help them out."
Playing for Duke, Shelden Williams was familiar with the idea of Ubuntu, but had never heard of it until he joined the Celtics. Now on his fourth NBA team, he's sees something in this team that he has not seen in the NBA before.
"Everybody is sacrificing for a greater achievement. Everybody has one goal, one mind, and that's something that fits basketball so well because you have five different players out there on the court and there could be different agendas. But when you have all that out of the way, out the window, and you're just concentrating on that prize at the end of the tunnel, I think that's a great accomplishment for our team to believe in that."
Against the Cavaliers, it was Rasheed Wallace, not Kendrick Perkins, who was on the court towards the end of the game. Perkins has been the starter on this team for a few seasons now, and some players in that position might feel threatened in a situation like that. Not Perkins.
"We got a talented team. I know guys want to be in there. I'd love to be in there, Sheed [Rasheed Wallace] would love to be in there, but that's part of being a good teammate- cheering for the next person. Whatever Doc rolls with that's what we roll with, and that's when Ubuntu comes in play."
"I was curious about Sheed, what kind of teammate he was going to be," Perkins continued. "He's turned out to be an excellent teammate, more than I expected."
Rasheed Wallace? Ubuntu? In years past, some fans may have doubted it, but Wallace has come in and become the prototypical teammate, and has grasped the meaning of Ubuntu along the way.
"It's a brotherhood. That's one thing- we all have each other's backs with that. It's something that we definitely live by. Just go out there, play, got each other's back with the slightest little thing on the court and off the court situations."
Marquis Daniels first noticed the term Ubuntu from some signs around players' lockers. "It keeps everybody accountable," Daniels noted. "When one goes down we definitely help that one up."
While not being new to the team, J.R. Giddens has had to remain positive about his less-than-positive situation. In order to do that, he must remember to keep the team's goals ahead of his own.
"Ubuntu is the ultimate team philosophy," Giddens said confidently. "I cannot be as good as I am without my other brothers, and we make other people better."
"I think us coming up short of the title kind of humbled us a little bit," explained Giddens. "We realized that we got to pull together and tighten up these bolts to this ship because if we're trying to sail off like that, everything has to be good from top to bottom. Not saying that last year people were not doing that but I think we're putting more of an emphasis and focus on that this year."
It is no secret that the Celtics team that won two seasons ago was a very close team. They immediately bonded in Rome, and well, the rest is just history. A post-championship hangover last season along with key injuries throughout, may have deviated them away from Ubuntu just enough.
So far, it appears that the Celtics have found their "Rome" again, and Ubuntu is here to stay. Everybody knows how the saying goes- "When in Rome, do as the Celtics do."