I love watching the NBA. In truth, I love watching Lebron James play and I’m always cheering for whatever team he is in (currently the LA Lakers). NBA teams operate under a higher pressure environment where anything less than a championship is considered failure. Of course, only one team can be crowned champion every year which means that 29 other teams will “fail” according to this high standard.
The pressure from these unrealistic expectations forces teams to make dumb decisions. Let’s take a look at two teams, the Milwakuee Bucks and the Philadelphia Sixers. Both teams lost their playoff series in the semi-finals and both teams fired their head coaches. The coach for the Bucks actually led the team to a championship in 2021! Two years later, he is fired for failing to win it all.
Coaches are the classic scapegoat for NBA teams. They get most of the blame for underperforming even though they actually aren’t dribbling the ball themselves. At most, they can influence and guide their team but they have a limited impact on the court.
NBA teams often cannot fire their superstars. Even if they play terribly, like the Sixers did in their recent playoff series, someone else has to take the blame. Blaming the players can make teams seem unappealing for future stars so they blame someone else.
The best teams in the NBA (and other organizations) aren’t looking for scapegoats. They look for the cause of failure and work to improve it. It could be that they are missing key skills within their roster or they need a new offensive approach. It’s not about blaming someone but working together to improve it.
Scapegoating feels good at the moment but it doesn’t actually solve the root cause issues. That’s why so many teams seem to be stuck at a certain “ceiling” of possibility. They are too busy blaming instead of actually trying to make things better.