Most years, "Sports Illustrated" honors individuals as its "Sportsperson of the Year." But in 2018, thanks to teamwork that the magazine deemed "transcendent," the honor went to the Golden State Warriors.
"They seem to speak in a single voice," editor-in-chief Chris Stone said.
Just three years ago, the team had a rookie coach and hadn't won a NBA championship in 40 years. Since 2015, the team has won three.
The Warriors' success as a team was fueled, in part, by open dialogue. Head coach Steve Kerr, who had won championships as a player and worked with top names such as Phil Jackson, is known for seeking input from a range of voices, including some of the most junior members of the coaching staff.
"In order to be a great leader, you have to listen to other people," forward Draymond Green said in 2015. "But yet Coach Kerr always tells us, 'I listen to anybody — video guy, video intern.'"
Listening to and empowering all his team members helped forge what "Sports Illustrated" called "an almost-telepathic chemistry." This was essential at tough moments, like when Kerr was sidelined after receiving back surgery.
Those describing both the team's leaders and players use words like "humility," "centered" and "even keeled." In fact, in the ramp up to the "Sportsperson of the Year" award, "Sports Illustrated" said Kerr asked that just one photo of him be used with the article.
Kerr understood that "the moment the players see you making it about you, not the team—you lose them," the magazine explained. Gestures like these made throughout the organization have built working relationships that stand apart. "There is something transcendent about the team," Stone wrote.
Only three other teams have received the award, which recognizes the ideals of achievement and sportsmanship. Other teams include the Boston Red Sox (2004), U.S. Women's Soccer team (1999) and U.S. Men's Hockey Team (1980).
While the other teams were honored for what they did in a certain year, Stone said that the Warriors were recognized for doing something unique over an extended period.
"I don't know if, in my lifetime, there has been a team where the pieces have blended so beautifully together," Stone said.