October 4, 2007
C's Have New Team Motto: Ubuntu
ROME - The words spoken in unison by teams as they exit their huddles before games and after practices have grown so cliche, they have begun to lose their intended meaning. Players often use ``team'' or ``defense,'' while the Celtics have gone with the obvious, ``One, two, three, Celtics.''
Then there was the time before the final game of the epic 15-win campaign in 1996-97 when the Celts put their hands in and paused before one player said, ``Let's get this (expletive) thing over with.''
But those lucky enough, and wealthy enough, to sit near the Celtics bench this season will hear something quite different coming out of the team huddles. During the first days of training camp in Italy, the team has chosen the word ``ubuntu'' to finish its post-practice moment with coach Doc Rivers.
The word has its origin in the Bantu languages of Southern Africa and is used to describe a philosophy of life that promotes the greater good rather than individual success. Rivers read about the philosophy during the summer as it related to the teachings of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and said it denotes a belief that one person cannot be successful if those around him are not. Nobody wins unless everybody wins, if you will.
The coach asked Gabe Pruitt, Glen Davis, Brandon Wallace and Jackie Manuel to study the concept of ubuntu, and the rookies made a presentation to the team last Saturday before the flight to Italy.
``The rookies did a good job explaining it,'' center Kendrick Perkins said. ``They made a great presentation. We've got some very intelligent rookies. It's just our team motto this year. It's what we're living by - ubuntu. We stick together. That's basically what I think it means, just bringing everyone together, everybody sticking together through thick and thin. I think it brings team unity. It's very unique. I think if we live by it, we'll be all right.''
Ray Allen agrees.
``It's a unique way of trying to unite everybody and make people understand that through all of our differences, we've got to have a similarity,'' he said. ``We have to come out here and play basketball every day, but we have to do it together. We're starting our season now, and this is what we want to have as our foundation.''
Captain Paul Pierce has been able to relate the concept to his own career.
``I think it's great that we brought that,'' he said. ``Guys have put an emphasis on it, and a lot of the things about that, we can put into the game of basketball. It's the true meaning of success in the NBA. I look at my success in the past, and my best years individually have been our best years as a team. That's what I feel ubuntu is. It gives us something to think about, and it gives us a goal. We're in this all together, and none of us can succeed unless all of us succeed.
``I look at this team, and I think everybody believes in that phrase, because no matter who gets the glory, it means we all get the glory. For Kevin Garnett to get the MVP or Ray Allen to get the MVP or (Rajon) Rondo to make an All-Star team, I know I've got a part in that. I'm going to feel that. That's what's going to make us successful. If everybody feels that way about it and doesn't care who gets the glory - because we all get the glory at the end - it's going to be something special. If we can carry that throughout the whole year and not get down on one another and we keep it like that, we're going to go a long way.''
Pierce acknowledged that it helps to have people who can play, laughing when it was suggested that ubuntu without talent won't get the team to the NBA Finals.
``But even if you have the players,'' he said, ``you still have to be able to stay together if you really want to win.''