Culture & Success

Charles Payne
Posted: Jun 06, 2014 12:01 AM
Culture & Success

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.

Look at the NBA lottery and those teams who have needed it the least. It is remarkable that, even without access to the best players coming out of college, the best teams are always competitive. Sure, some get great players through player trades, but even in those cases, players want to play for these organizations because they understand their talent alone is not good enough to win the championship.

Check out how well the NBAs grand experiment has paid off. In the bizarre world where handouts are considered a birthright and food stamps, the best stimulus (to paraphrase Nancy Pelosi) is that we have to consider those that get into the NBA lottery as winners, and those that don't qualify -also known as the greedy- as losers. The top six losers have been to in the lottery, a combined 32 times versus 100 for the winners. Combined, the losers have had as many number one picks as the LA Clippers.

However, a winning culture, which can be learned and un-learned, only happens when those involved have a certain kind of character.

The San Antonio Spurs have been to the lottery twice, each time with the number one pick, and each time picking a man with character and conviction.

  • 1987- David "The Admiral" Robinson
  • 1997- Tim Duncan

Needless to say, the stats of these two Hall of Fame players (Duncan still playing, so not eligible yet, but I am going out on a limb) are just a little better than Michael Olowokandi’s.

History of NBA Lottery




Lakers, Bulls, Spurs, Heat, Rockets and Pistons

Clippers, Hornets/Pelicans, Warriors, Kings and Wizards

Times in Lottery



Number One Pick






Tonight, I will be rooting for the Spurs because I used to go to their games when I was a kid. I admire the Admiral and Tim Duncan, and the coach; he is the “man.” This is a team with fewer superstars and each year it brings on guys I have never heard of before. Usually, they have the best regular season record; they have also won a few championships. The team works because after a down period, they used their lottery picks for cornerstone players.

Moreover, the coach implemented a plan that focused on fundamentals and teamwork. It is a template for how life should be lived, and it is a great way to invest in the stock market.

Fundamental Basketball & Fundamental Research

Investors are always enamored with the sexy stuff, jumping on the bandwagon of things, and they do not understand because it sounds new, fresh, and cool. That is why the traveling elixir salesman was able to crisscross the nation with his magic snake oil and not be skinned alive. By the time he returned to a town he had previously fleeced, he had another elixir guaranteed to work.

Of course, trading hot stocks is not the same; however, there is a distinct difference between a company that has proven itself over a century and one that is sexy, but unproven. The problem is most people think any product or service their grandparents once used has to be played out, even if it is a product they use now, and their grandchildren will one day use as well. Instead, toss out a fancy acronym and watch the stock get the bum's rush.

I have had great slams and have had big misses with the hot stocks, but throughout my career, I have learned you must own those boring names, which will be around for a longtime.

Shared Fundamentals Basketball & Business

  • Executing game plan
  • Establishing rigorous goals
  • Teamwork
  • Chain of command
  • Beating rivals

This is something to keep in mind during the period that the market becomes more volatile and pressured. The slam-dunk is fantastic, but winning the game is a whole lot better.