When the Golden State Warriors closed out the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs this spring, the team’s post-game celebration was a testimony to its togetherness. Mark Jackson delivered one of his signature benedictions to teamwork, then gave forward Draymond Green the cue to initiate the group prayer as the team huddled tightly, arms raised like a campfire stack.
Green led the prayer with great command. His invocation thanked “father lord” for the blessings bestowed upon the team and asked that the lord continue to bless the Warriors, watch over them and allow them to bond together. Green then concluded the prayer with, “In Jesus’ name, I pray.”
Broadcasted live on national television, the unbridled expression of faith in a specific god was jarring. For anyone who's ever found himself in such a circle but who doesn't believe in that particular god -- or any god -- the experience can be uncomfortable.
Do you participate out of deference to the majority? Stay silent and meditate about something else until it's over? Quietly excuse yourself from the circle? Do you bring your uneasiness to the attention of a coach, supervisor, camp counselor but risk disrupting the cohesion the team, staff or cabin has established?
These are tough questions, especially when there's a sense these rituals are positive, team-building exercises for most. But there are also good reasons we reserve faith for private moments in a civil society. Plurality comes with a price, even if it feels right to praise a higher power at a moment of collective celebration. That's not a statement of political correctness, but a commitment to the idea that great teamwork is about inclusiveness above all else, that units function best when everyone feels like they have a stake in the mission.
Could Green make this accommodation if he was asked? I'd been wanting to find out since May.
Meeting Green in person is an altogether pleasant encounter. He's inordinately grateful for the opportunities he's enjoyed in basketball. Where there's often a chip on a second-rounder's shoulder, Green carries a humble confidence. He loves his job, loves his teammates, his coaches and even loves the chance to share those impressions with strangers and sincerely wants those strangers to feel comfortable.
Green graciously agreed to sit down and discuss the importance of vocalizing his faith in the locker room, and the implications of those declarations.