Spiral Dynamics and the Chicago Bulls

This blog is for anyone that wants Spiral Dynamics explained in layman’s terms. The 1990’s era Chicago Bulls can embody each stage in Spiral Dynamics. The illustration will facilitate understanding and give a tangible example of how each stage plays out in real life.

Red Stage (Ego – Centric)

Benefit: Building and Solidification of Ego

Possible Downside: Self-centered behavior

Embodiment: Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman is the embodiment of Red level value systems. Rodman valued self – expression over everything else no matter what the consequences. While he was in the NBA, he wore a bridal gown, admitted to kissing men, and said Larry Bird respected as a basketball player because he is white. Through all of this, Rodman never backed down or apologized for what he said. He came to the games with dyed blonde hair and had a body covered with tattoos. In the 1990’s few players had visible tattoos.

If you are at Red level of development if you answer yes to these questions.

Do you always speak your mind no matter what the consequences?

Do you feel it is weak to change the way to dress or talk at work not to offend people?

Do you hate political correctness?

Your group of friends is people that act and think just like you?

Do you like touchdown dances?

Blue Stage (Ethno-centric)

Benefit: Building close relationships with those outside your family.

Possible Downside: Racism, Homophobia, Xenophobia

Embodiment: Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr is now the coach of the Golden State Warriors, but before that, he scored the winning basket in game 6 of the 1997 finals for the Chicago Bulls. He is a textbook role player on the court and plays the games as James Naismith would want it played. Kerr did not celebrate on the court or wear gold chains off the court. Unlike his other teammates after the game, he would go home to his wife and kids. When asked how he felt when making the game winning shot he gave all the credit to his team.

It is not surprising Steph Curry is doing well under his current coaching. When Curry responded to a compliment on his exceptional play, he said, “All of the glory goes to G-d.” Both are blue value system thinkers. On a team run by another blue value system thinker, Steph feels more comfortable expressing himself. The compatibility of values could be the reason he is now doing so well.

If you are at Blue level of development if you answer yes to these questions.

Does the Bible, Koran, Vedic Scrolls serve as the basis for your value system, etc.?

Your group of friends comes from the church, synagogue, sangha, etc.?

Do you believe the team is always more important than the individual?

Do you feel it is right to suppress your feelings for the good of the group?

Do you feel once rules are bent or broken it will lead to the entire system falling apart?

Do you severely dislike touchdown dances?

Orange Level (Goal – centric)

Benefits: Cultivate the ability to be successful and meet your survival needs in a competitive world

Possible Downfalls: Workaholism, Conniving behavior

Embodiment: Michael Jordan.

No player in the 1990’s was more successful than Michael Jordan. On top of numerous NBA records, he amassed a fortune. He was able to own his shoe company and was one of the first black men to own an NBA franchise. No one in basketball history can match his success on and off the court.

Unfortunately, his focus on goals led to some poor decision-making. In 1996 a known racist Jesse Helms ran for governor in Jordan’s home state,  North Carolina. Jordan was asked to endorse the Democratic candidate who happened to be black. Jordan replied “Republicans buy sneakers too” and did not support the Democratic candidate.   

For more on this issue read:



The other well-known controversy in the 1990’s was black teens being robbed or killed for Nike basketball shoes. Jordan was asked to convince Nike to cap the price of shoes or at least speak out against the violence. He chose not to do either. He could not see past his goals.

If you are at Orange level of development if you answer yes to these questions.

Do you feel it is ok to bend or break rules to facilitate achieving a goal?

Are most of your friends are people that will give you some skill needed to meet your goals?

Do you have a five-year plan?

Do you like touchdown celebrations as long as they are not ostentatious enough to draw a flag?

If the team is holding you back from your best performance, will you change teams?

Are you often told by family and friends that you neglect them due to work or other commitments?

Green Value System: (World-centric)

Benefits: Understanding encompasses people of many walks of life

Possible Downfalls: Exalting other cultures and putting down your own.

Embodiment: Phil Jackson

Coach Phil Jackson is called the “Zen Master” and he is known for getting many big egos to play together as a team. He favored letting each player find their voice and role. He believes in giving players enough freedom. When a player is constrained, they will spend too much time bucking the system. He led the players from where they were and not where he thought they should be.

One of the many things Phil Jackson was able to do is get his players to take up mindfulness practice. What he taught is player how to meditate, and he showed them how it could be useful while sitting on the bench. The development of mindfulness prevented outburst on the court that draws extra attention from the referees. He also attempted to incorporate yoga into practice. When players started to complain, he stopped extending practice for yoga. His leadership style was firm but flexible.

If you are at a Green level of development, you will answer yes to the following questions.

Do you take time to learn about cultures other than your own?

Do you try to keep everyone happy when in a group?

Are you looked at as a “peace-maker” within your group of friends?

Do you feel building strong relationships are the best way to enrich your life?

Do you spend time evaluating what other people are thinking about you?  

This article illustrates how people in all stages were vital to the success of a team. When studying Spiral Dynamics one must remember the point is not to find out where you are and how to move up. That philosophy will only lead to more suffering. The goal is to have a fully healthy manifestation at the stage you occupy. A person should also be careful in characterizing one level as totally bad or totally good. If you analyze each level, you will see healthy manifestations and unhealthy manifestations.


The page above is a personal blog that is not an official Spiral Dynamics Blog. The work of Clare Graves and Don Beck is the basis for this article. For more information on Spiral Dynamics, please go to the website below.