One, Two, Three, Ubuntu!
Words Daniel George Posted 25 June 2012
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is without question the best basketball league in the world. Each year, 30 associations from North America compete for the NBA Championship to become known as the best team in the world. Until now, the Boston Celtics are the most successful association with 17 NBA titles. At the last competition in 2008, the championship was not solely won because of the great individual players or because of their great head coach Doc Rivers. No, the 2008 Championship was won mainly because of the African 'Ubuntu' philosophy, which helped the Celtics to grow as a team and unite the individual talents into world-class performers.Celtics calling
Thierry Kita (right) and All Star coach Lindile Khetelo sitting in the Hoops 4 Hope office at the Crossroads Community Centre in Cape Town. Photo : Emilie Lukman
'Doc Rivers called me and asked if I could teach the concept of Ubuntu to the Boston Celtics players because he had heard a university professor speaking about it', explained Thierry Kita, South African basketball legend and director of the Non-Profit-Organisation Hoops 4 Hope. 'For us at Hoops 4 Hope it is part of our lesson. We teach the kids how to live their life. We teach Ubuntu every day.' Some weeks after the Celtics call, Thierry Kita joined the training camps in London and Rome to introduce the African philosophy. With three NBA Superstars (Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce) in the team, the concerns before the 2007/2008 season were undeniable. Quite a few people were worried that these players would not share the ball as they should. But due to Ubuntu these concerns quickly disappeared.
'I am because we are '
'I am what I am because of who we all are', a sentence that perfectly sums up the concept of the Ubuntu philosophy. As a rallying cry for South Africans fighting against apartheid, the Xhosa word Ubuntu was voiced by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Ubuntu is a way of life, which Mandela explained with the following example: 'A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?' Sharing, community, caring, respect and trust - values that are also essential in the world of sports.
The usual audience of Thierry Kita at the Crossroads Community Centre. Teaching the concept of Ubuntu to the Boston Celtics players was a different but equally successful story. Photo : Emilie LukmanNo research necessary
Of course Thierry Kita was already used to teaching the concept of Ubuntu: 'I did not have to prepare myself, I did not have to get books, I did not have to do research', he stated. But talking to NBA Superstars instead of young children in South Africa was definitely a difference. NBA players are moreover, by average annual salary per player, the world's best paid sportsmen. Nevertheless, 'It is one thing for me to sell it to the team, but it is a whole other thing when a guy who lives Ubuntu, who lives over in South Africa can tell you exactly what it means', Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said, he continued 'Kita is one of these people nobody knows but that is very important. He was the key seller of Ubuntu.'Understanding Ubuntu
Obviously the Boston Celtics understood Ubuntu: the team finished the regular season with the best record in the whole league (66 wins, 16 loses), reached the Play-off Finals for the first time in 21 years and finally won their 17th NBA championship. Thanks to the great individual players, thanks to the great head coach Doc Rivers and thanks to Ubuntu! For that reason, the word Ubuntu was written on every championship ring. Still today, four years after the championship victory, the players come together before every game. They put their hands together in the air and shout out loud: 'One, two, three, Ubuntu!'