I have quoted Bill Simmons at length from a grantland.com post on Bill Russell and Sam Jones. It speaks to the core truth of the players involved, and acknowledging and accepting a core truth is fundamental to maximizing the value of the player and constructing your team on a substantial foundation.
By any calculation, Sam Jones was one of the best 40 basketball players of all time, someone who came through in big moments more than just about anyone. He also drove Bill Russell crazy for years and years — Russell never understood why Sam passed up the chance to be as consistently good as Jerry West or Oscar Robertson. Other than Jordan, Russell was the most homicidal competitor the NBA has ever seen, someone who puked before every big game and judged himself by winning and winning only. Knowing his buddy possessed the talent to dominate all the time — only doing it occasionally — was something that gnawed away at Russell for years. Finally, he asked Sam about it. According to Russell’s book Second Wind, here’s how Sam responded:
I don’t want to do that. I don’t want the responsibility of having to play like that every night.
Russell accepted that answer and they never discussed it again. As he writes later in his book, “I never could guess what Sam was going to do or say, with one major exception: I knew exactly how he would react in our huddle during the final second of a crucial game. I’m talking about a situation where we’d be one point behind, with five seconds to go in a game that meant not just first place or pride but a whole season, when everything was on the line … Red would be looking around at faces, trying to decide which play to call. It’s a moment when even the better players in the NBA will start coughing, tying their shoelaces and looking the other way. At such moments I knew what Sam would do as well as I know my own name. ‘Give me the ball,’ he’d say. ‘I’ll make it.’ And all of us would look at him, and we’d know by looking that he meant what he said. Not only that, but you knew that he’d make it.”
Bill Russell was as fierce a competitor as anyone, and for all his physical gifts it was his intelligence that was at his core. He served the Boston Celtics, and his intelligence made him question Sam Jones commitment. Once he got his answer, ot was his intelligence that allowed him to accept the core truth of Jones. They did not stand in each others way fighting to be right, superior or simply something they weren’t, but accepted these core truths and built a dynasty