Are You Your Team’s Motherfucker?

From the late, great David Halberstam and his book A March to Madness: A View from the Floor in the Atlantic Coast Conference, page 37:

Every team needs a motherfucker, someone who is tough and mean and willing to do anything to win. That can mean getting in the other team’s face or getting in the face of a teammate if necessary. Michael Jordan was a motherfucker, even if his college coach wouldn’t use the term. Christian Laettner was a motherfucker and his college coach wouldn’t hesitate to use the term. Years ago, Maryland center Buck Williams, who carried a Bible with him everywhere he went, was a motherfucker. His coach liked to say of Williams: "Off the court he’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet. ‘Yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am. On the court, he’ll kill you if he has to."

Barnes was convinced he had a burgeoning motherfucker in Buckner, someone who would do anything to win a basketball game and never back down from anybody. That was what he felt his team needed to compete in the ACC: an attitude, one that said, “We are motherfuckers and you can’t scare us.”

(hat tip to my brother)

7 comments on “Are You Your Team’s Motherfucker?
  • Ben,

    Great post! It’s always nice to see a young professional not worried about using the word “motherfucker” knowing potential employers probably scour their blog.

    The post couldn’t be more true. Every great team has a motherfucker, and a team that doesn’t is “soft” and will fold up when it counts regardless of how talented they are.

    What’s really fun to watch is a team that has a bunch of motherfuckers. I played on a basketball team once that had 3 in the starting rotation. The other team wasn’t going to get a loose-ball, it wasn’t going to happen. Needless to a say a team of undersized, not-so-athletic, but very gritty and very heady went 10-0 in conference play and won a title.

    Thanks for sharing!


  • I’d say that I’m a situational motherfucker. I generally prefer to let someone else do the dirty work, but I’ll step up to full motherfuckerhood when necessary.

    One fond basketball memory I have is from a pickup game where I ended up on a seriously undersized squad. “Man,” one of my teammates said, “I’m worried. They’re so much bigger.”

    “They may be bigger,” I said, “But they’re a bunch of pussies. Let’s take ’em.”

    “Hey, we’re right here,” protested one of the opposing players. “We can hear what you’re saying.”

    “Yeah, and you’re not going to do anything about it,” I retorted, “Because you’re a bunch of pussies.”

    They didn’t, and we won going away.

  • That is one kickin’ post that had me asking myself, ‘Would Gandhi then have been a Motherfucker?’

    And you know, I think he was.

    He also had the rocks to reinvent the game cause both the field and rules of play really needed change change.

    Ditto for Nelson Mandela.

    Sidney Poitier.

    Oprah Winfrey.

    Mother Teresa.

    For me there’s winning and there’s WINNING, and in today’s world ya gotta be careful which Motherfucker you’re looking to for the best example of the kind of win you’re really after – and the best way to play it so you really can take it for the team.

    The field of play is big my friends, but not so big we can keep playing to kill the competition. It’s becoming abundantly clear that the old game’s coming back to Motherfuck us…

  • It’s intriguing that all of the ‘motherfuckers’ mentioned in your passage were star players, and more specifically, big time scorers. I don’t have the book, so I don’t know if that’s generally the case. But couldn’t one be a motherfucker without being a star?

    Consider the NBA. Yes, Kobe is a motherfucker. But on the Spurs, who has it been? Not Tim Duncan. I’d say, as much as I hate him for playing dirty, that Bruce Bowen is a motherfucker. To go old school, Bill Laimbeer was a motherfucker.

  • This post reminded me of an article about Arn Tellem from Sports Illustrated back in 2002. There’s a story related by Brent Barry about how Tellem could go from nice guy to bulldog in a millisecond. It’s something to keep in mind… Everyone likes nice, but sometimes you have to let your inner motherfucker shine through.

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