One team’s epic collapse is another team’s come-from-behind victory. Or, to state the matter differently, the most underrated player on your team just might the sixth man or woman commonly known as “Big Mo,” or momentum. The weekend in hoops brought us some wonderful lessons on the role that Big Mo, and his wicked cousin, “Meltdown,” play in the game of basketball and life.
Big Mo had his biggest role down in Florida where the Seminoles of Florida State, who had won only eight games in the current season, played the league-leading Hurricanes at the University of Miami. Down by as much as 25 points and basically written off, the Seminoles looked to Big Mo to turn things around, and turn them around he did by helping FSU score 54 points in the second half, beat Miami 85-84 and register the greatest comeback in the history of the basketball-rich Atlantic Coast Conference.
Meanwhile halfway across the country in Iowa, the Michigan State Spartans were ahead by 13 with 1:34 left in the second period when the Hawkeyes of University of Iowa, which had managed to make just a handful of three-point shots all day, hit five in those last 90 seconds of the game to send it into overtime, which the Hawkeyes won by beating the Spartans 112-106.
And finally, lest we think Big Mo only shows up in college games, the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks led the Los Angeles Lakers by 27 points in the second period, only to lose their lead — and the game by a score of 111-108 — behind the hustle of Anthony Davis, Lebron James and a lesser known sixth man named, you guessed it, Big Mo.
I’ve been studying the phenomenon of momentum in sports and business for some time now and have learned that something both magical and neurological happens when the right group of people get on roll together. In other words, you know when Big Mo enters the game because the following things start to happen:
- First, you start cheering for one another rather than yelling at each other or at referees, fans or anyone else who is available. While Big Mo and the Lakers got real busy running up and down the court scoring, the Mavs and Meltdown got busy arguing with the referees and feeling cheated that all this was happening to them.
- Next, as you get a few successes (or baskets, blocks, steals etc.) under your team’s belt, you start to believe in the unbelievable. The basket gets a little bigger on the shooting end of the court and the once insurmountable becomes the outside chance, and then the outside chance becomes the distinct possibility, which in turn becomes the passionate quest.
- Finally, buoyed by the reversal in fortunes that is unfolding before your very eyes, you find a new gear as your energy feels almost limitless and your focus locks into place in what can only be called a collective, cognitive experience of “being in the zone.”
Yes, teams as well as individuals can enjoy this boost. When the Iowa Hawkeyes got hot, they began shooting ridiculous, fade-away three-point shots with defenders all over them — the kind of shots a coach wouldn’t want them taking even if they were way ahead — and they were making them! They began working harder at helping out on defense.
There does seem to be a direct physical corollary — an opposite and equal force — that happens to the collapsing team. Collapse is momentum in reverse, and it’s star player is Meltdown. You’ll know Meltdown is on the floor when you see a team stop playing to win and begin playing not to lose, a defensive and fear-driven response adopted by the Hurricanes as FSU took the wind out of their sails.
In addition, you’ll see players losing confidence in each other and allowing a victim mindset to replace an accountable one.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham captured the dynamic after the game. “The guys never got discouraged,” Ham said. “They had that look of frustration, but it wasn’t a look of defeatedness on their faces. Everybody just wanted to stay encouraged.”
And that’s how Big Mo found himself coming off the bench to play a lead role in Dallas, Miami and Iowa this weekend. You have to create a spot for her to flourish, a spot that begins with a commitment not to quit until the final whistle. A simple yet difficult discipline even for those who are the best in the world at what they do.
What are you doing to give Big Mo a place on your team?