Being the best team in basketball is kind of like being the hottest startup in Silicon Valley: Everyone wants to discover the blueprint of your success, and replicate it for their own team (or company).
In business, that blueprint can be a new or nimble business model, high barriers to entry, a first-mover advantage, or access to a trove of valuable data. In basketball, that blueprint can be the system with which the team plays offense or defense. But in both cases, the blueprints only work if you've got the right talent to execute them.
That, at least, is how Stephen Curry, the reigning Most Valuable Player of the NBA, sees it. "You can try to copy it, but you won't have the personnel," he says in a recent interview with ESPN the Magazine's Sam Alipour, in which he discusses the runaway success of his team, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
But that doesn't mean other teams aren't trying. As Alipour points out, opponents are catching up to the Warriors in terms of their pace of play. In fact, the Warriors rank fourth in pace of play this season, after having led the NBA in that statistic last year. It hasn't affected the Warriors' success--their unprecedented 23-0 start, heading into Friday night, is living proof. But it's an indication that teams are replicating their fast-paced style.
What are some other keys to the Warriors' and Curry's blueprint for success? Here's a sampling from the ESPN interview:
The healing power of floating and meditation. Many of the Warriors frequent the Reboot Float Spa in San Francisco for one-hour sessions ""bobbing belly-up in salt water inside sensory-deprivation pods," writes Alipour. Recommended by Lachlan Penfold, the Warriors' head of physical performance and sports science, the treatment relieves soreness and decompresses the spine.
The sensory-deprivation piece of it makes it an ideal climate for meditating, too, away from one's cell phone and into silence. "I have a very clear head when it's done, and it shows in the days after floating," Curry tells Alipour. "It gives me a nice boost of focus and perspective. The more I do it, the more I get from it."
The power of practicing discomfort. How did Curry manage to follow up his MVP season with what, so far, has been an even stronger performance?
By sticking to his detailed practice routine, which--like his famed pre-game warmup ritual--combines hand-eye coordination drills with brain exercises. He tells Alipour:
The drills I do are pretty much what I've been working on these past three or four years: like this drill where I wear goggles with flashing lights that obstruct my vision (while dribbling and passing). Weird, random stuff. Those kinds of sensory distractions are variables that take my mind off the ball and sharpen the brain, helping me neurologically. All of that stuff helps me slow the game down.
Not surprisingly, Curry's routine--in which he intentionally leaves his comfort zone--resembles the practice habits of NFL great Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
The mentorship of NBA great Steve Nash, who is now a member of the Warriors' staff. Curry tells ESPN that Nash has taught him to "always have an out" when he is the decision maker on a given play. In non-basketball lingo, that simply means to have an alternative at the ready, if the plan you're hoping to execute quickly backfires.
On paper, that sounds simple, in both basketball and business. But it can be easy to forget, since the fast-paced pressures of the court or the workplace often require lightning-quick decisions. Like Nash, Curry has become adept at recalculating his routes in real time, course-correcting and moving to Plan B if Plan A doesn't work.
Which means that that other teams in the NBA still have a lot of catching up to do.