“You want me to own team and deal with these rich, spoiled stubborn athletes, and try to get them perform? No thank you”
This NBA season has been really interesting thus far. Many of my favorite teams (i.e. Memphis Grizzlies) and players (i.e. DeMarcus Cousins) have really stepped up their game. There has been some disappointments as well (i.e. I expected Lance Stephenson to make a jump to the next level) and the biggest low-point of them all has been my all-time favorite team:
Los Angeles Lakers
The team has been completely dysfunctional. Superstar Kobe Bryant has been making a great comeback from points-perspective, but does not really trust anyone in the team. They are likely to tank really bad and that it is something as a fan I feel sad about. On the other hand I have high respect for Kobe Bryant: 5 championships do not come without extraordinary work ethic. Although he is totally on different pay range than any of us, he is still an epitome of skilled professional. Here are some lessons we can learn from him:
1.Know your value
“I like playing for the purple and gold. This is where I want to finish up”
There has been lots of talk about Kobe´s big contract and how selfish that has been. I do not really understand the criticism. Kobe is the star worker for the organization who makes millions out of his work. In normal business it is appreciated when people spend their whole career in same company. In NBA, we want the players to jump ship whenever their team is not playing well. So Kobe is loyal to the organization and it is likely that he will end his career as a Laker-for-life. Lebron has been already in two teams. On the other hand he is not stupid either. It does not pay to be loyal to a company that does not treat you well. Currently Lakers have no prospect for championship, so who can really fault Bryant for maximizing his contract?
Same rule applies for professionals: it is worthwhile to stay in organization provided that they appreciate you and compensate you evenly.
2. Understand what business you are in.
“These young guys are playing checkers. I´m out there playing chess”
Winning is one aspect of being successful NBA team. Lakers had an awful season last year and were playing without Kobe. Still, guess who was the most profitable team in NBA? Although from a sports perspective this season will be even more horrible, it might actually be more lucrative from business side. The audience wants to see Kobe both at home and on other markets. They cheer for him and want to see one of the greatest of all time do his thing. Lakers might not win, but they are hell lot more entertaining when Kobe is on board. It is also not a coincidence that Jeremy Lin was signed to largest Asian-American market in USA. NBA is show business. Besides dunks, passes and rebounds the game is also about TV rights, shirt sales and sponsorship deals. The value of superstars for the companies goes beyond their tangible contributions.
3.You have to find the motivation somewhere.
“I don´t want to be the next Michael Jordan, I only want to be Kobe Bryant”
If you can´t win the championship, you have to motivate yourself in someway. So again, I am not faulting Kobe for being obsessed on passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. Mike is the greatest player ever; surpassing him, regardless how many shots it will take, is not a mean feat. Same thing with companies: if your organization is not doing that well, you have to find your enjoyment somewhere. Whether it is new project, mentoring or maximizing your bonus. If there is nothing motivating you at the workplace, it is time switch teams.
4.Ignore that you are likely overrated
“The only thing I am afraid is bees. I don´t like bees. I´m allergic to them”
We always inflate the value of super stars. Total denial of any stint in perfection is also a characteristic for the superstars. Kobe makes lots of points, but he takes and misses lots of shots as well. He has high usage, but low efficiency. Actually Lakers are more effective when Kobe is off court according to the stats. I still don´t doubt at a moment that Kobe believes genuinely that the only sensible way to help his team is to shoot more. Quite often we cannot recognize our own weak spots and have too rosy picture about our own skills. We also underestimate the role of luck in our success.
Where many others have retired, Kobe (aged 36) is still playing 30 minutes every day, getting paid really well, getting crowds excited and maybe winning scoring title this year.
I´d surely like to be on that level when I would be close to retirement.