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Basketball is about feelings: Emotional discipline wins games

Don’t underestimate the role feelings play in basketball

Slovenia v Poland: Quarterfinal Round - FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

It’s all about the feelings — how basketball makes us feel as fans and how feelings affect the players. Often the positive or negative feelings a player puts into his team are multiplied, affecting the culture around him. If everything else works, culture can be a deciding factor in how a team ultimately performs. Don’t underestimate the role feelings play in basketball.

Our feelings

I like to talk about feelings on Twitter. Basketball-related feelings, of course, it is NBA Twitter — the feelings that basketball gives us all. The feelings of joy, camaraderie and belonging that being a fan can give us.

When Luka hits a step-back three and gives us that bobblehead grin we all live for, we feel it. We feel it deep in our gut, an excitement bubbling up until we can’t contain a scream of jubilation anymore. We feel like we can do anything if Luka keeps playing like this, that the Mavs can do anything, beat any team.

After a clutch three we go out into the world, uplifted, smiles on our faces, just a little more excited about tomorrow and about the life that’s in store for us. Maybe today’s the day that we make a difference, that our acts of kindness affect a stranger in a positive way. We feel a little more intensely, see colors a little brighter. We are fans, and that is what Luka and the Mavs do to us.

Emotional discipline

But feelings are also something that can make or break a game, and even a career for a player.

Emotional control in tough moments was a big deal during EuroBasket, and the coaches and players that couldn’t control their anger towards the refs or toward the other team, cost their own teams dearly time and time again. Emotional discipline wins games.

And Luka knows this. After the 2021 Olympics, he addressed the issue himself: “We were slightly too emotional in both games, especially me. I have got to learn from that, and it is not how I should be behaving.” This year, Luka did an overall better job of not letting bad calls get to him, but it’s obviously still an issue he’s struggling with.

In Slovenia’s disappointing last game and painful defeat to Poland, Luka’s arguing and complaining to the refs lost his team points on the other end, when he didn’t make it back on defense. A lot can be said about the refs and his teammates not protecting him, but ultimately, you’re letting your teammates down when you don’t get back on defense. It cost more than one bucket and a shift in momentum.

It’s often the small things that make a difference in short and intense knockout games. In all reality, getting back on defense, preventing transition points, matters in the outcome of a game. Talking to the refs has to wait until there’s a stop.

Team chemistry

Culture and team chemistry is another example of how feelings directly affect a team’s performance. Here, Slovenia excelled and their chemistry, team culture and all that time ‘playing cards’ they did, played a big part as to why they came out on top in 2017.

And in the playoffs, we witnessed a historic overperformance by the Mavs — much of which can be attributed to the immaculate vibes the players were feeling. If you’re willing to go to war for each other, chances are you’ll have each other’s back in a high-pressure game. If you don’t trust each other, chances are you’re not going to reach that stage at all.

Basketball is all about feelings and in this weekly column I will get into all the feelings the Mavericks give me — and the feelings they may feel, positive or negative, that may affect their game and the team.