'The ball is energy' - Festus Ezeli on the Golden State Warriors' key to success

ByLeonard Solms via ESPN logo
Tuesday, August 2, 2022

When Festus Ezeli signed for the Golden State Warriors in 2012, they were NBA no-hopers, but according to the former center, the team's philosophy of selfless teamwork was the secret to their turnaround into serial champions.

Nigeria center Ezeli won the 2015 NBA championship with the Warriors, which has since been followed by further triumphs in 2017, 2018 and 2022. However, Ezeli played no further part on the court after the first championship under Steve Kerr, as injury derailed his career.

Ezeli, who was at the University of Cape Town for NBA Africa Day with the Rise Residential Summit, told ESPN: "I was drafted to the team in 2012. Right before that season, in 2011, we were the worst team in the NBA.

"We started this whole dynastic run. We were young; we were nave. We just believed that we could accomplish these great things. We didn't know how hard it was going to be along the way.

"My college coach has this quote: 'It's amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the glory.' That's what that team is -- just a team of amazing, incredible people with one goal who work their tails off to get that thing and everybody's selfless along the way."

Ezeli was part of a panel where he discussed lessons from his career, together with trailblazing basketball coach Liz Mills and former South Africa rugby star Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira.

In attendance were 100 teenagers aged 15-17 from 42 countries who were selected as part of the Rise project, which celebrates youth excellence.

In the panel discussion, Ezeli once again touched on the Warriors' approach to teamwork, revealing Kerr's obsessive focus on passing the ball well.

He said: "The reason why [the Warriors] are still good is because they learned something: after every game, they count all their passes. There are some games where we win by 30 and [the] coach is like: 'That's not acceptable, because we didn't hit our number of passes we were supposed to get.'

"The idea is, the ball is energy. If you move the ball, everybody is included. Back to the original point I gave you: it's amazing what can be accomplished when nobody gets the glory."

Ezeli, who left the Warriors in 2016 just as Kevin Durant joined, insisted that 'KD' should be valued wherever he ends up next season.

Ezeli said: "Kevin Durant is arguably one of the best basketball players in the history of the game. Any team that has him around their team is lucky and will be lucky to have him on their team. He's going to be a benefit and an asset to them.

"I don't understand the politics of the NBA. I don't play. There are people who are paid to do that, but I do understand that he's an asset that everybody should love to have on their team."

Durant won the NBA with the Warriors in 2017 and 2018 and was the finals MVP in both of those years. He joined the Brooklyn Nets in 2019, but looks set to leave after requesting a trade. The Boston Celtics are widely reported to be the most likely destination for him.

Related Video