“Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team.”
—Scottie Pippen, Former Chicago Bulls Forward
Everyone wants to be a star player—the face of the team and the one who gets the glory. But in reality, teams need to have a set of role players willing to sacrifice their egos for the benefit of the team.
Of course we want all our readers to work hard, be vocal and help lead their teams to victory; however, many leaders never get to bask in the limelight. Understand that every successful team needs players to take on roles that may not be attractive, but that are necessary. Be the player who takes on double teams to free up a teammate. For football, only play special teams. Substitute in for specific defense and offensive packages. Every player needs to understand his role, no matter how small it may seem, and work to execute it to perfection. This is the only way a team can be successful.
Before Scottie Pippen ever slipped on the first of his six NBA Championship rings, he knew what it meant to be a role player. In college, he was a 6’1” walk-on at the University of Central Arkansas, who also happened to be the team manager, helping out with equipment and locker room issues.
Having spent most of his first year in college riding the pine, Pippen understood that he had to pay his dues and wait for the right time to show off his talent. He eventually shot up to 6’8” and became a starter, averaging more than 23 points per game and shooting nearly 60 percent from the field in his senior year.
Pippen became the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. He was selected by the Seattle SuperSonics, then traded to the Chicago Bulls for Olden Polynice.
Although Pippen would eventually become a superstar player in the NBA, he never really became the icon of the franchise, courtesy of his teammate Michael Jordan. Yet he always understood his role and set his ego aside, helping to form one of the best pairings in NBA history and to create a dynasty that would last nearly a decade.
His 10 NBA All-Defensive Team honors and NBA record for assists by a forward (6,135) didn’t go unnoticed. Pippen’s jersey now hangs from the rafters in Chicago, and he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this past August.
Who said walk-ons are only part of the practice squad?
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