Tonight, the NBA finals will kick-off with a rematch from last year’s title contest (that the Spurs should have won) that promises to be a thriller. One of the reasons this should be a great game is that both teams know how to win. In fact, the NBA is a great example of how a culture of winning can define greatness more than other obvious factors. With all the controversy surrounding the LA Clippers this year, it might not surprise anyone that this team has been a prime example of a poisonous culture where fortune and opportunity has been squandered and drowned.
The NBA, trying its own version of social engineering, introduced a lottery system aimed at jump-starting the bad teams through redistribution of talent via the best players in college going to teams with the worst records in the pros. The first lottery came in 1985 and it was not without controversy. The event held in New York City, saw the New York Knicks win the rights to pick Patrick Ewing. (The league was in need of a great team in its largest market and "presto,” they became a contender overnight.) On paper, the plan seemed wise, and one would even say fair.
Not only have the Clippers been in the lottery a record 22 times, but also it has had the number one pick for five of those years. Having access to the best players does not mean having a better team. In 1998, the team selected seven- foot center, Michael Olowokandi to be its savior, but he came up a little short.
In addition to his monster college numbers, Olowokandi also averaged three blocked shots per game during college. He has spent more time sitting on the bench than playing on the hardwood as a professional, and yet a lot of basketball mavens considered him a “cannot” miss prospect.
I am not picking on this guy; it is just something that comes with the territory of a bad culture. On the flip side, this is how great things happen to great organizations and great people. Therefore, it is not about talent, but it is about effort and a belief system that is determined to be great; you see it in publicly traded companies and in public policies. Right now, the notion of being extraordinary is anathemas to polices that seek to shame successful people.In addition to his monster college numbers, Olowokandi also averaged three blocked shots per game during college. He has spent more time sitting on the bench than playing on the hardwood as a professional, and yet a lot of basketball mavens considered him a “cannot” miss prospect.