The Giants’ World Series triumph last fall was especially satisfying because it bucked the trend in professional sports of exalting individual play over the team.
The Giants certainly had star players. Tim Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young Award winner. Buster Posey was NL Rookie of the Year. But this was a team victory with some unlikely stars — Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria — who came alive in the postseason.
That’s quite different than what’s been happening across the rest of the sports landscape.
In the NFL, it seems there’s a demonstration after every play. Football is an emotional game, but these are not emotional outbursts. They’re planned well in advance.
When Terrell Owens was starting his career with the 49ers, Jerry Rice told him, “When you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”
Owens didn’t take that advice, of course. Rice is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. TO’s career has been marked by occasional spurts of brilliance but many disappointments, as he’s gone from team to team. His name won’t come up in any Hall of Fame discussions.
But the antics in the NFL don’t begin to compare to those in the NBA, which truly caters to the individual stars.
The NBA has been star-oriented from the beginning: The marquee outside Madison Square Garden in 1948 proclaimed: “George Mikan vs. the Knicks.” Must have been a shock to the Knicks to see that Mikan actually had teammates.
Rick Barry seemed like the whole team when he almost single-handedly drove the Warriors to their only NBA title in the 1974-75 season. The next year, his teammates rebelled against Barry’s domineering attitude and refused to pass him the ball in a playoff game in which they were eliminated.
A feud between rookie Chris Webber and coach Don Nelson tore the Warriors apart after the 1993-94 season and ended badly for both sides. Webber was traded and had an uneven career with four other teams, while the Warriors plunged into an abyss.
But those events pale in comparison to what transpired with the Utah Jazz earlier this month.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan, whose 23-year tenure was the longest in the league, had clashed with star point guard Deron Williams over the best style of play for the team.
It came to a head at halftime of a game against the Chicago Bulls. Sloan and Williams had such an angry confrontation that players feared they might come to blows. After the game, Sloan retired.
Williams? He was traded to the New Jersey Nets just before the trading deadline.
Can the Giants retain their team focus this season? There have been a lot of temptations this offseason: Brian Wilson has been flown to Charlie Sheen’s home; Aubrey Huff has been celebrated for his “rally thong”; Posey has been mobbed by fans.
But for now, they’re a striking rebuff to the individualism sweeping through other pro sports.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.