Though competition is good, teamwork is better

To say Kobe Bryant wants to be great is an understatement. With him, great doesn’t cut it. He wants to be the best. He wants to be remembered in a pantheon with Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. It is this determination that has led to his bountiful success.

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In 2004, however, it also led to failure. Kobe reached too high and too fast. He saw another all-time great next to him in Shaquille O’Neal and decided the door to that basketball pantheon would only open if he approached it alone. He pushed Shaq and Phil Jackson out.

He put all the pressure to succeed firmly upon his own shoulders, molded a team that had just won three consecutive championships into a vehicle for his coronation.

He failed. Even a player as talented and driven as Kobe couldn’t take on the world by himself and win.

A lot of USC students succumb to a similar problem, albeit on an extremely less public stage. We might not feel pressure to be the best basketball players, but we feel pressure to become successful.

It might come from parents pushing us starting from a young age, from innate competitiveness or a search for validation, but it is that search for success or happiness that drives a lot of us. It is an entirely negative thought process.

Though we should encourage competitiveness and individual drive, there is a lot to be said for the value of teamwork — a quality that should take precedence.

Does following the specter of some promised land cause us to take on too much weight? I think so.

We overload with classes and commitments; stress, pressure and disappointments become expected.

In some areas, this cutthroat mentality is latently encouraged. In others, the encouragement is much more direct.

Somehow, if you aren’t pulling an all-nighter or studying for hours, you are not doing enough; you are falling behind. It borders on madness.

Do you remember when the Lakers sucked? A time when they missed the playoffs and finished behind the Clippers.

It was indeed a low point. Kobe tried to shoulder everything by himself and could only go so far.

It took some luck (the trade for Pau Gasol) and a lot of reconciliation (accepting Phil Jackson and Lamar Odom as invaluable aids) to allow him to pick himself back up and finally vindicate himself.

He stopped exerting all his energy trying to force himself to the top and instead strove to use his drive to help those around him, and lo and behold, as they rose, he was pushed up with them.

Yes, there are 6.7 billion people on earth all striving for the same success, climbing up the same mountain, pushing some out of the way, pulling the legs of those above them.

It seems that without Herculean effort, standing out in the “best” fields is impossible. Perhaps this is true. But perhaps we should not try to become the very best.

We should sacrifice our dreams of the summit to help that ocean of climbers rise a little higher collectively.

I’m not saying don’t strive for new heights. Quite the contrary, it is the strength of human ingenuity that has pulled us to where we are today.

We have descended from trees and risen to the moon. We are an amazing species for what we have done.

We should not waste the heights we have already reached by focusing our effort on the wrong things.

That summit, that top of the mountain, it doesn’t exist.

I think that mountain goes on farther than we can possibly imagine and, as clichéd as it sounds, we should find what makes us happy — what we are good at -— and use it to help those around us to climb up that steep mountainside along with us.


Daniel Grzywacz is a sophomore majoring in cinematic arts-critical studies. His column, “Thoughts From The Quad ,” runs every Wednesday. 

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