In light of Magic Johnson’s recent prediction about Kevin Durant, I decided to objectively evaluate the physical characteristic that sports commentators most often mention in regards to Durant: his wingspan.
Since height has a large impact on wingspan, I evaluated Durant’s wingspan relative to NBA prospects since 1989 who are his height within an eighth of an inch. The wingspans of these players range from 6′ 8” to 7′ 6.25”, and sure enough Durant is near the top of the distribution.
Obviously a long wingspan is not the only thing that contributes to Durant’s basketball prowess, but I’m sure it helps. Thanks to DraftExpress for the data!
By any metric you’d like to use, Gregg Popovich is one of the most successful NBA coaches of all time. He has won 4 NBA championships and keeps the San Antonio Spurs competitive and in the hunt for a title every year. I think some recent comments to the San Antonio Express-News reveals a little bit of the secret to how he has been so successful:
Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times. Everybody’s holding the ball. What else do you want me to do here? Figure it out, and I’ll get up and walk away. Because it’s true. There’s nothing else I can do for them. I can give them some bulls—, and act like I’m a coach or something, but it’s on them.
I have observed that sometimes people in leadership positions fail to put people in situations where they can succeed, and then put the blame on the individual who ultimately fails. The reality is that there has been a failure in leadership. In basketball terms, the play was drawn up poorly, so why blame the player who sought to execute the poor play? What Coach Popovich is pointing out is that the leader isn’t always the one who can come up with the best play, and that he allows his players to take an active role in planning for success. Clearly Coach Popovich understands that leadership isn’t about power, it is about empowering.
I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do. It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group. Whatever can be done to empower those people.
More than anything, leaders are facilitators. This is why leaders who fall into the trap of flexing muscles and seeking to manipulate ultimately fail, they destroy the very people who can bring success to the organization. Coach Popovich sums this point up beautifully:
It’s a players’ game and they’ve got to perform. The better you can get that across, the more they take over and the more smoothly it runs. Then you interject here or there. You call a play during the game at some point or make a substitution, that kind of thing that helps the team win. But they basically have to take charge or you never get to the top of the mountain.
With true leadership the battle becomes personal because it isn’t about the coach, it is about the team.
I am touched by the story of Aitazaz Hassan Bangash who sacrificed his life to prevent a terrorist attack at his school in Pakistan. Here is an excerpt from the story on CNN:
A 14-year-old boy is being hailed as a hero in Pakistan for tackling a suicide bomber — dying at the main gate of his school and saving schoolmates gathered for their morning assembly.
Ninth-grader Aitazaz Hassan Bangash was on his way to the Ibrahimzai School on Monday in the Hangu district of northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when the bomber, dressed in a school uniform, asked him where the school was, the teen’s cousin told CNN.
Aitazaz and his cousin, Musadiq Ali Bangash, became suspicious, Musadiq said. “The other students backed off, but Aitazaz challenged the bomber and tried to catch him. During the scuffle, the bomber panicked and detonated his bomb,” he said.
I find it interesting what Aitazaz’s teacher said of him:
He was an average student, but was a bold child.
Why must Aitazaz’s boldness be prefaced with the revelation that he was an average student? Are only above average students expected to be extraordinary? Let me clarify that I am not blaming his teacher; I am merely illustrating how ingrained academic achievement is in our assessment of people.
In the moment of crisis Aitazaz proved that he was not an average individual. Aitazaz was bold, and it was his boldness that saved the lives of over 400 of his peers.
As a society we are obsessed with smart people. In our love affair with being smart, have we overlooked other traits that are arguably more valuable than dominating a standardized test?
Perhaps part of the legacy of Aitazaz can be that it prompts us to reconsider the merit of using academic achievement to define and predict future success.