Understanding the “Ace” Players In Sports: The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays is a story about working together as a team, regardless of how talented one player is over another, in order to beat insurmountable odds. Kuroko, was the phantom six man from his junior high basketball team, where the players were so good they were regarded as “The Generation of Miracles”. An apt description since there is a guy on the team that is a %100 shooter… from anywhere on the court… that’s right, anywhere… That’s what makes the show really fun though is some of the ridiculous things these players can do, and then in turn how the other team has to overcome them. Each of the six players from the Generation of Miracles can do something unique and amazing. They are so good that it starts to push them apart, and changes the way they feel about basketball; except Kuroko. He is not a strong player, and had to work super hard for not much pay off, but he does have a skill, and ends up specializing in passing which makes him amazing in his own way. They end up all playing for themselves and not for the team in there last year of Jr High and still never lost a single game, or came close for that matter. The lack of team play, and dissolving comradery really bothered Kuroko. They all decide to go to different schools in high school so that they can see who the best is. After almost quitting basketball Kuroko decides to keep playing and show the other players that he can beat them by working as a team. The show continues from there, and shows us what playing on a team is really like, how to face defeat and keep moving forward, and the attitude you need to win.
Those are all awesome topics, but not where I want to focus in this article. I want to focus on the “aces” – the best player on the team. I found the portrayal of the aces very true to my own experience playing and watching sports. The show depicts several different types.
- Akashi : winning is everything to this player and he is so good that his play demands respect even from people way more experienced. He also possesses the knowledge and strategy to lead a team.
- Kise – is always looking for a new challenge and can master anything that he tries. Highly adaptable and learns by watching others
- Midorima – A superstitious player, he is very talented but can be relied on to control the pace of the game, and focuses on accuracy as his dominant weapon.
- Murasakibara – Gifted with the right build to play the sport he is naturally good at both offences and defense. However, plays only because he is naturally good at the game.
- Aomine – aggressive and fast, unpredictable due to his mastery of the unorthodox style. He is able to enter the zone (hit flow), and has strong natural instincts.
I think using these “ace” archetypes you could pick any top player in a sport and fairly accurately understand and categorize them. For example I think we see the last type in a lot in sports, especially in team sports. When you can win by yourself, it would be very hard to play as a team and be motivated to keep practicing and getting better, because let’s face it, what’s the point. Due to this, I found Aomine’s story very interesting and reminded me of many players in the real world. For example, and I won’t use basketball because that’s too easy, one that comes to mind is Alexander Ovechkin, when you see him play, or see him work out, like I got to this past week (the Washington Capitals came to work out in my gym the day before they crushed the Flames) you notice something. He doesn’t seem like he tries very hard. He kept to himself in the gym and seemed to be giving very little effort compared to the rest of the team (granted they were playing the next night, and I can only comment on the one workout I witnessed). Even in the sports world, hearing that he has lost the passion in his game and is lazy getting back on defense is not uncommon from announcers. This being said about the guy who in his first game in the NHL scored 2 goals in 4 min and hit someone so hard he broke the glass. This is why I am reminded of Aomine’s story, it’s almost like he was too good, and started to become unmotivated because the challenge wasn’t there anymore. Aomine loved basketball, but once he reached his true potential, he realized how good he was and that there was no one on his same level to help push him, so he stopped coming to practices and stopped trying really. I realize this is an extreme case and that there are other people in the NHL that could be a challenge to Ovechkin, however, from watching this show I can understand why Ovechkin has become the player he is from the player he was.
The show is also great at showing and understanding how a team needs to play when there is an ace on the team, and it is different depending on the archetype. I wish I would have had this information when I was still playing competitive fastball. Our team had an ace that we tried to force to lead when it wasn’t in his personality. Call on him to make a big play in a critical moment of a game, yes, but ask him to motivate and keep the rest of the team accountable was not in him and it was unfair of us to put both pressures on him. Someone else needed to take that responsibility away from him, but no one ever did, and that hurt our team in the long run. Maybe we would have won one of the Canadian Championships we played in. Our ace was a Midorima type, superstitious, clutch in critical moments, and very accurate (pitcher). What players can you think of that would fit these archetypes, maybe professionals or even people you played with or against?