There’s no “I” in “team.”
So goes the common saying that encapsulates the common idea that good teamwork is selfless. But, punchy as the saying is, (and as correct as its literal meaning is) the idea that good teamwork is selfless is entirely wrong.
When a sport is team-based, it is, by its nature and rules, a cooperative activity. A proper motivation for any individual to become a player of that sport is to enjoy playing as a member of a team and to contribute to the success of the team. To enjoy the team sport, each individual should enjoy putting his skills at the service of the team’s success. The player’s personal interests should be aligned with those of the team.
It is not a selfless sacrifice for Kobe Bryant or LeBron James to refrain from showboating and hogging the basketball, when doing so would be detrimental to their team’s chances of winning. Their personal interests are best served by playing good basketball and winning games.
Ask a football player, who lost the SuperBowl for his team by showboating with the ball, whether what he did was good for him. The answer should be clear enough without having to ask.
Let us rid ourselves of the confusion that sees so many social values, such as teamwork, friendship and love as inherently selfless; while also equating “self-interest,” “egoism” and “selfishness” with shortsightedness, foolishness, childishness, materialism, and the harm of others. Let us clearly recognize that one’s own self-interest–one’s happiness–is not bought at the expense of the interests of other people.