Three Greater Good Lessons from the Golden State Warriors

The NBA Champions are a case study in mindfulness, empathy, and cooperation.

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The Golden State Warriors are a Greater Good team.

I say that not only because they play in Oakland, just a few miles from our office. Nor because several of our staff (myself included) have been known to skip out of work early to cheer them on. Nor even because our faculty director, Dacher Keltner, sat in on a couple of Warriors practices earlier this season.

No, I say that because throughout their dominant run across the NBA regular season, playoffs, and Finals, they preached and played by Greater Goodvalues. Indeed, Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr has deliberately shaped the Warriors’ team culture around four core values: joy, mindfulness, compassion, and competition. That last one is a no-brainer for any professional sports team, but the first three are less conventional—and they obviously resonate with our work here at the Greater Good Science Center.

When the Warriors reclaimed the NBA championship from the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this week, those values took center stage. From their postgame interviews, as well as their play during the finals and their season as a whole, I took away three lessons that, according to Greater Good science, feel just as important to finding satisfaction in life as they do to finding success on the court.

1. Good things happen when you focus on the present.

Finals MVP Kevin Durant has been one of the top players in the NBA for a decade. But his consistently jaw-dropping performance in the Finals—including the most clutch shot of the Warriors’ season—brought him to a new level of greatness. What made the difference?

“I just tried to stay in the moment the whole series, and I think that worked for me,” he said after Game 5. “I remember plenty of times throughout my career, I continued to look in the past or look ahead, and not stay in the moment. And this series, I just stayed in the moment.”

That sounds a whole lot like mindfulness, the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surrounding environment—and one of the Warriors’ core values.

“I just tried to stay in the moment the whole series, and I think that worked for me.”

―NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant

While mindfulness is often seen as something you practice during formal meditation, many experts, including famed author and mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, stress that it’s better thought of as a state or quality you can bring to any activity. That could be taking out the garbage, enjoying an ice cream cone, or shooting a three-pointer with LeBron James in your face. The key is that you’re attuned to the present moment, not dwelling on the past or lost in the future.