To be clear – I am not a sportswriter or journalist. I am a sales executive that recognizes excellent leadership, tremendous talent and the success that comes from the indomitable spirit of a driven & unified team.
This post is my personal story about Leadership, Competing, Inspiring and Winning from a basketball perspective adapted for career applicability.
I’m a die-hard, rabid Los Angeles Lakers fan (married to one also), former season ticket holder and member of the winning team of the 1999 Byron Scott – Fantasy Camp for Men. This was Byron Scott’s last basketball camp before he became a NBA head coach.
The camp was a weekend long, mini “pro basketball immersion” and competition for adult men from all walks of life – who paid big money … to come together, get drafted onto a team, learn to run drills for skills and conditioning, participate in two practices daily, and play a spirited basketball tournament at the end of the camp.
Every night we’d rub shoulders with NBA & College basketball greats and hear their stories of life in the NBA.
(Note: that’s me in the purple jersey – right front, surrounded by the Coaching Staff; on my right is Darrick Martin, on my left is John Williams; Byron Scott is in the red shorts on the far left. Reggie Theus – back row right behind me; Jack Haley – back row center; LaSalle Thompson – back row left)
As it turned out – the men I met at this camp were from all over Southern California. We had nothing in common except we loved basketball, were very competitive, willing to come together to learn from professionals and have a great time doing it … and of course win the Tournament, get the trophies, gear and bragging rights.
Very quickly, as expected – it became apparent there were leaders and followers among these men. I was drafted by Reggie Theus (our coach) onto a team with a real estate mogul, two lawyers and several other “regular” executives like me – the egos emerged.
Perhaps, because I could play pretty well and showed up to camp in shape – my basketball skills (aka “game”) became apparent to the others. Throughout the scrimmages and drills Coach Theus and Coach (Commissioner) Scott complimented me on several aspects – my shooting, especially my passing and basketball I.Q., and teamwork – as a result I was elected a co-captain along with one of the lawyers (who was a very good player).
From this grueling but fun weekend – I re-learned relationship management lessons and reinforced several skills acquired in my youth, all of which I hold dear to this day.
Lesson # 1: “game recognizes game” in life and basketball … if you have game those playing with you (or around you) will recognize and acknowledge it. Be ready to play, be in condition and studied up to know what you’re doing. However, be prepared for Lesson # 2.
Lesson # 2: because you have game doesn’t mean you have leadership ability. You must demonstrate it and then earn the right to lead others. If you’re identified and selected as a leader – next you must work hard to reinforce the team’s decision to let you lead them – by involving others, caring for the team and helping them look good (in performance) & be good (in execution). More on Lesson #2 later.
Off the Court – Team Building:
We were all amused by the stories we heard from Coach Haley – who waxed nightly about his days with the Chicago Bulls and his role as “flunky” for Michael Jordan.
According to Haley – he carried Air Jordan’s boom box, ran interference (kept the groupies off Jordan) when they were on the road at the hotel … and for home games performed as team leader and designated Entertainment Host to visiting teams who’s stars wanted to enjoy some Chicago nightlife. Charles Barkley was said to be one of the guest who Coach Jack Haley entertained.
Jack cracked us up, as he spoke about the game in which he and Air Jordan combined for 64 points – Jordan had 62 and Haley had 2.
Each night we sang karaoke (on demand by the Coaches) in the Hotel bar and us first time campers were required to sing our college fight song and “buy a round” since we didn’t know all the words.
Competing & Winning:
(Note: Our Championship Team – My Guys & Teammates – wish I’d gotten their autographs; our Point Guard and Co-Captain with the ball – kneeling center front; our “Big Man” back row center; me on front row – right with Coach Theus; Coach/Commissioner Byron Scott in the back row – left; )
The Tournament started and our team did well, led mostly by our big man and our point guard (Co-Captain). There were 4 teams total – coaches were Byron Scott, Jack Haley, Reggie Theus and LaSalle Thompson.
Ultimately, we made it to the Championship game. Then things went bad, our big man sprained his ankle and could not play; then as the game started our Point Guard “kinda ran out of gas” early in the first quarter.
Time for me to step up as a Co-Captain – enter Lesson #3: leadership galvanizes the team during a crisis, expectantly rises to the challenge and can be unanticipated by the competition.
For the next 3 quarters of the Championship game – in the most surreal scenario I have ever been in, the crowd of my basketball camp peers cheering, my wife and son in the stands – I played very well. Scoring points when we needed them, rebounding, getting others involved by my assists and playing defense on the opposition’s best guard.
We WON the Championship game, got trophies, hats, hoodies (which I still cherish) and bragging rights. Unexpectedly, Coach Jack Haley (opposing coach) said to me at the awards ceremony “You hurt us, I didn’t expect that!”. Coach Theus said “You won the game for us”. Lesson #1 personified.
At the Black Tie & Gym Shoe Banquet and Silent Auction for Byron Scott’s Children’s Charity that followed the end of camp and champion game – my teammates hooted and hollered and called me the “Championship Game MVP”. Lesson #2 as love.
During camp, as a Lakers fan – the most inspiring times came when Coach Byron Scott, spoke about the Lakers championships teams, their travels, Pat Riley’s practices and the off the court times he shared with Magic Johnson, Michael Cooper and James Worthy.
Fast forward 15 years – as I watched Byron Scott being introduced recently as the newest Los Angeles Lakers head coach – I felt a special connection to him, those assembled from the Showtime Lakers teams and all of us who want to see greatness emerge again from the mediocrity of late.
The Los Angeles Lakers have a winning tradition, perhaps unsurpassed by any professional or college team in any sport. Hiring Byron Scott, a Laker native son, re-establishes them toward that tradition.
While we know the current team is a blend of youth and a few veterans among them Kobe Bryant their only NBA champion. I fully expect Kobe’s leadership, fierce competitive desire, meticulous preparation and winning nature to be inspiring to his teammates. His enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame is ensured … yet his legacy could be considerably elevated with another NBA title at the close of his career. This would be Lesson #2 applied.
Taken to a whole new level – with Byron Scott as the Lakers coach and the pedigree of players that he played with and the front-office (Mitch Kupchak) & ownership (Buss family) who have been instrumental in the Lakers success -this current team will all be inspired to do great things.
Sometimes inspiration, nourished by teamwork – combined with your desire, skill, preparation and execution can cause you to be exceptional beyond your own imagination.
- Read My other post on Teamwork:
- View My video on Teamwork: