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The State is the Lakers

November 7, 2010

You either hate ‘em or you love ‘em. The Lakers, a NBA team, is known for many things. They’re known for holding records of having the most wins, the highest winning percentage, the most NBA finals appearances, the second most NBA championships, and most impressive of all…the first team since 2002 to win back-to-back championships. Sixteen Hall of Famers played for the Lakers, while four of these sixteen have coached the team. Four Lakers—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant—have won the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for a total of eight MVP awards.

How are they known for so much? What sets them apart from the other NBA teams? It’s all about thinking for the general will.

If anyone watched Game 7 of 2010’s NBA Finals, we all know Kobe Bryant, MVP, was not up to par as he usually is, but he recovered and made up for his mistakes with rebounds. The Celtics led the game by a score of 40–34 at halftime. However, in the end, the Lakers won over the Celtics 83–79. This was due to poor rebounding by the Celtics and them entering the penalty early.

If anyone missed this epic game, here’s a clip:

The unifying concept in Rousseau’s writings is liberty, and the Discourse on Inequality and the Social Contract focus on the mechanisms that influence the liberty of man. In the Social Contract, Rousseau declares that his goal is to find:

“a form of association which defends and protects with all common forces the person and goods of each associate, and by means of which each one, while uniting himself with all, nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as before.”1

Rousseau proposes the general will as a solution to the goal, and civil equality and participation are two essential mechanisms that enable individuals to maintain their personal freedom and independency while being a citizen of a state. Ultimately, both civil equality and participation should be viewed as equally important since they mutually reinforce one another as they secure the liberty of man that Rousseau highly values. The absence of either will lead to the weakening of the general will and the degeneration of the state.

The State can be looked upon as the team: the Lakers, while the general will depends on the players that make up this team. Lakers become a perfect example of exercising the general will for the good of everyone. The concept of the general will acts to legitimize and establish a strong and fair government. The general will can be seen as the collective will that has the common good of all in mind which “must both come from all and apply to all.”2 The main reason why the Lakers won this series was because of teamwork. When one man could not deliver, he noticed and let others stepped up.

Every team in the NBA had an equal chance of making it to the finals. No bias was made and every team was basically “free.” Nothing held any of these teams back in achieving a championship title. However, some teams did not have a state where general will prevailed. This was evident in the Celtics. Players did not think of other options. They only thought for the good of themselves only. The moment that you pass the ball to your teammate when you are double-teamed or when you give the ball up so that someone else can have the glory, you are thinking for the general will. This is exactly what the Lakers did. They knew they were falling behind and realized why. They acted on this fast, and with teamwork, won game 7.

The Lakers participated and were all equals in this game of basketball. With this concept, the general will proved stronger in forming a winning team. The state was sound even as they were seen as a team, they all were still individually recognized.

Most people will look to the star player to deliver the points, assists, and rebounds that are needed in order to win the game. However, each person has a right to fully participate. When one starts viewing another as an equal and puts their trust in that person to do right is when we achieve equality. We are not equal until we see each other as an equal. We are not equal until we put our faith in others and participate according to the general will.

I’ll admit that I have a bias because I LOVE the Lakers, but there’s no denying the fact that the Lakers have something the Celtics don’t: teamwork. A funny tweet was posted by a guy, after having watch the Lakers lose one of the games in the finals to the Celtics, that said:

“The Celtics are garbage, truly. I’m not saying they’re not a good team, because they are, but their players are absolute trash. Watch them on the court and see what I mean; watch their antics and tell me that it doesn’t make you wanna wring their collective neck, especially as a Laker fan. A big reason why I hate the Celtics is because the whole team walks around like they’re individual hairs on God’s ass. Same reason why I hate LeBron. He’s a good player, a fucking great player, but “Chosen 1,” really? Please. Take your ass to the Amazon and get that head shrunk.
Am I a bitter LA fan right now? Damn right, I am, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Celtics are a bunch of brats.”


1 Rousseau, Social Contract I.VI
Rousseau, Social Contract II.IV

  1. emilywiho permalink
    November 7, 2010 11:54 PM

    I really liked this post as I found the parallel you described between the Lakers and Rousseau’s theory of general will intriguing and well written. Although I can’t exactly share your love for the Lakers, I do share your belief that the greatest teams shared a common feature: great teamwork.

    The general will of wanting to win for the Lakers is similar to the general will of a society – the inherent good that everyone should and must follow. If one of the members of the Lakers did not share the general will of wanting to win for the team, and wanting to play as a team, then the Lakers would not achieve the successes it had.

    In the general will, as Rousseau described, people have to sacrifice all their other goods, especially their private desires. Similarly, for a team to succeed, its team members must sacrifice their own private wills for the general will of winning. Players have to give up their personal desires for glory and play as a team.

    Yet as simple as this sounds, it seems that it’s still a rather idealistic theory as evident with your example of the Celtics and many other sports teams, as well as governments. When private wills intervene, the teamwork falls apart and the team or the society will not be able to perform at its best.

    The private will of individuals is the greatest hinderance to the success of teamwork and the functioning of a society, yet sadly also the most difficult thing to overcome.

  2. xiaoyzhang permalink
    November 8, 2010 12:26 AM

    I had two thoughts while reading this post.

    First thought:
    I really like the comparison with Rousseau and a basketball team. The general will can be seen as the collective will that has the common good of all in mind which “must both come from all and apply to all.” This quote right here clearly should apply to a basketball team. In order to be a great basketball team, the players must have great chemistry and put team goals in front of individual goals.

    Second thought:
    I watched every game of the NBA Finals. I disagree with you that the Celtics players lost because they thought of themselves first. If you look at the box score:, you can clearly see that the
    Celtics had 18 assists while the Lakers had 11. This means more ball movement and finding the guy with the open or better shot. Therefore, to say that the Celtics lost because they thought of themselves is untrue. KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce aren’t known to be ballhogs. KG only has a reputation for bullying smaller players while Pierce has a reputation for faking injuries. However, Kobe Bryant is the one known to be a ballhog. He took 24 shots and attempted 15 FT’s even though he knew he had an off night. Therefore, I would argue that Kobe thought of himself before others.

  3. Zac Hiller permalink
    November 8, 2010 12:35 AM

    Very interesting post. I really like the parallel you draw between the Lakers and Rousseau’s theory. In another post like this i thought it was hard to draw similarities between Rousseau’s theory and professional sport but I finally agree you can. I argued that teams with superstars ended up winning in the end but here you use an example where the superstar did not deliver, and the team still won. My perspective has changed and as said in the other post, “there is no I in team.”

    • dmalks permalink
      November 8, 2010 6:19 PM

      I agree with the post above in that a team can still win without the star playing well. Just look at any of the other recent championship teams: San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, and the Miami Heat. All teams that won based on team play as opposed to superstar dominance and Rousseau gives us this insight.

  4. Amani permalink
    November 8, 2010 10:06 AM

    I really enjoyed this post as well. It was really creative of you to tie when of your favorite teams to a concept of Rousseau’s. I agree that most basketball teams do possess teamwork because without one another, than the team will be no where. However, it is not always the case with the lakers, though all the players get a chance to show their skills, most of the time Kobe Byrant has the ball, and is scoring all the points. Just like xiaoyzhang mentioned in their post, Kobe Byrant is known ” as a ballhog”, that’s why hes MVP because he is given all the chances to score.

    Just like the professor mentioned in lecture, the pistons are a great example of a team that possess the general will, because they truly do work as a team. Each player collectively works together to score points. Again, basketball teams are a great example of the general will.

  5. danny19baum permalink
    November 8, 2010 7:22 PM

    I really like your idea of teamwork on the Lakers as a metaphor for the civil equality stated by Rousseau. Coming from the view of a so called “Laker’s hater” I can say that I also see the connection that the Lakers have to some of the main ideas Rousseau. I think that certain connections can also be made about Kobe having certain qualities of authority must have according to Hobbes.

  6. Andrew Berman permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:34 PM

    I am also a Laker fan. Phil Jackson stresses that people give up their individual pride for the betterment of the team. When players move to the Lakers (i.e. Lamar Odom, Ron Artest) they give up their personal glory and statistics to fulfill a role. Lamar went from being a star player to someone who comes of the bench. Ron Artest wasnt an offensive factor because he exerted all his energy on the defensive side. Rosseau would admire these players because they believe in general will more than their personal beliefs. Every championship team in sports wins because of general will. Teammates give up personal glory in exchange for collective success.

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