The Basketball Metaphor

There is a reason that I am a big fan of basketball.

Basketball provides a template for the great.  They do something amazing at any given point.  They excercise their will on the game.  I sometimes wish ordinary life was like that.

A few months ago, Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in a single game.  He was in a rhythm, in some sort of zone, that no one else had reached before.  He made the all of the men that played this game that fueled one of the biggest multi-million dollar businesses in a country full of mulit-million dollar businesses, look like little boys.  For just one moment, he was the ultimate king…not because of luck, or serendipity, or even  decision-making…he just took full control of a situation and dictated his own outcome.  I like basketball for this reason.  It is the same reason that Michael Jordan won 6 total championships…3 before his first retirement, and 3 more after he came back.

We all wish we had that much control over our lives.  In individual sports, we expect it- we expect Tiger Woods to dictate his fate every time he steps out on the golf course.  In team sports, we rely that much more on the abilities of our teammates to contribute enough to ensure the succesful result.

In basketball- it is both team and individual all at once.  It is the perfect combination of people management and personal will.  This is why I like basketball so much.  It is to find a way to bring together all of the gifts of the people you know, and yet instinctively rise to the occasion individually when there is no other option.

Basketball is about playing on a team, but taking matters into your hands when it counts most- when there is no where else to turn to.  This is why I find it the most compelling sport.  It is where a player shares the ball for 3 1/2 quarters, and then commands it for the last six minutes.  Why?  Because he needs teammates.  And then, when they have done all they can, he needs to prove himself totally.

In life, we are all too often scared to put that pressure on ourselves.  We will always need people to help us achieve our goals.  But, we are often to frightened to excercise our will on the game, when they are not able to help us, or when things don’t go our way- when we are down in the fourth quarter.  I know I am.

But, we are fortunate.  We can actually afford to put that type of pressure on ourselves over a period of time- where it is melted across various mundane activity and not isolated under the blinding light of a single shining moment.  It is our competitive advantage.  The hard part is to take advantage of it.  The hard part is… to “Be like Mike”.

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