Humble Leadership – “that’s family business”

Thank you to my good friend Paul Robinson for reminding me of this. A sports leadership story today around these words “that’s family business” and what, in context they mean as a leadership story. Before I get there, the achievement of the team, then the story of “that’s family business”.

Of all the sports I’ve played, Basketball is my first and deepest love. Basketball played truly as a team is something of great beauty. Team basketball, however, is rarely seen at the absolute purest and highest level. To be a team instead of a  collection of individuals takes the willingness to absolutely subsume ego, to bring humility, and respect. Only when you have this can you align a group of sublimely talented individuals behind purpose and create the majesty of true team basketball.

For all of us, whether leading a business or simply our own presence in life, we can learn so much from this team around true leadership. So, which is the greatest basketball team ever?The greatest basketball team ever?

  • How about their coach now being in his 21st year (he is still coaching) as head coach.
  • Their captain being one of the greatest and most humble leaders ever. Oh, and he made the NBA playoffs for every one of his 17 career years.
  • They hired the first ever woman assistant coach in the NBA. Why? Once part of the organisation they see no labels, only what’s best for the team.

Great for years, but who are they and what was their greatest year to date?

San Antonio Spurs, 2014 vintage.

As Edinburgh folk would say, “end of !” (ie end of story, no more debate on this one !)

To see this for yourself, watch the following two short videos. The first one in particular, every time I watch it, I get goosebumps and tears in my eyes.

Some quotes from the videos :

From the opening of the first video, Magic Johnson: “So many times we promote the individual…but then we leave out something that’s really unique and special….and that’s team and team basketball… I’m happy we are seeing it.. you need to appreciate the San Antonio Spurs… sometimes you’re just lost for words, all you need to do is watch this team.”

Watch. This. Team.

Two quotes from the second video (of the NBA Finals that year, when they simply demolished the team of the reigning superstar of the sport, LeBron James.

LeBron James: “that’s how team basketball should be played. Selfless…all for the team”

Tony Parker (point guard of the Spurs): “we never let our ego be ahead of the team”

Now the story, then the video where all of this is spoken.

During one of the games in the NBA finals series, one of the less famous Spurs players (Kawhi Leonard) simply exploded in scoring and play. After the game the TV interviewer asked Head Coach Gregg Popovich if he or anybody had said anything to Kahwi going into the game that led to his performance. “We talked to him”, said coach Pop, “and what did you tell him?” followed up the interviewer. Pop paused, then said “that’s family business”

Team. No ego, only team.


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