Little over a week ago, Golden State Warrior fans were treated to one of the gutsiest performances by any team ever. The Warriors went into the fourth and deciding game for the NBA’s Western Conference Championship with their two tallest starters nursing long-term injuries and their fine first substitute unable to play. Among the injured, seven-foot Kevin Durant is recognized as one of the best basketball players of all time.
For over three quarters, the game didn’t go well for Golden State. With two minutes left in the third quarter, they were behind by 17 points, yet they won the game by two points in overtime. A young woman TV reporter asked Warriors guard Steph Curry how his team could pull off a victory like that with so many of their best players unable to play. And Curry said, “Trust, love and care.”
Imagine that. He didn’t mention the 37 points he scored. He briefly mentioned the contributions of his fellow starters and those who came off the bench. But what he emphasized was not something someone did, but trust, love and care. When I heard him say it, I couldn’t help but think of the great spiritual teachers of the world. Over the centuries, many of them have spoken about life in terms like Steph Curry applied to the Warriors.
Trust, love and care are spiritual values. They reside inside us. They come to characterize a person or a group. Among the Warriors, they manifest themselves in teamwork, unselfishness and mutual support. And they seem to bring a youthful joy to the Warriors in the task at hand.
For sure the Warriors wouldn’t be great without their great talent. But when it comes to the NBA playoffs, all teams have great talent. Talent wise, any team can beat any other team on any given night. To prevail requires something more. Steph Curry says it’s something inward, something spiritual: trust, love and care.
Trust is another word for faith. Trust may even be the stronger term. To have faith is one thing, but to trust those we have faith in brings it down to present cases. Trust is a practical demonstration of faith, and Curry says the Warriors have it. It seems to be so
Long ago, I heard someone say, “Love is the desire to set the loved one free to become one’s best self.” This is generous, open-hearted love. For years, sportscasters have marveled at the Warriors’ unselfishness and mutual encouragement. Watch them play and you see how they love the game and how something like love binds them together.
True, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant got into a spat earlier in the season, and it looked like it might tear the team apart. But as far as one can tell, that’s behind them. Love has its problems, we all know, and the test lies in how the problems get handled. It appears the Warriors gave us a glimpse of how time, good will and common purpose can heal the rifts in our love.
Care, in the sense of taking care of business, is certainly a Warriors trait, but so is care in the sense of caring for each other. The Warriors even ritualize their caring. Before each game, they circle around Kevin Durant and utter uplifting chants. With Durant away from the team with a sore leg, they use a volunteer, once even a broom, to stand in for him. Spiritual groups do rituals, not for the sake of the ritual but for the sake of the group, and that’s what the Warriors do.
Trust, love and care, the young Warrior tells us, are the marks of his team’s winning ways on the basketball court. Venerated, old and wise spiritual teachers have said similar things about living meaningful lives in this wide and wobbly world. We do well to listen to them.
Bob Jones is the former minister of the Guerneville and Monte Rio Community Church.