Summary List PlacementThe Miami Heat are back in the NBA finals after just six years away. It's a remarkable feat for a relatively new franchise — founded in 1988 — and the Heat has an impressive trophy cabinet, with six conference titles and three championships. But most impressive of all may be that this 2020 Heat team, unlike its previous championship runs with LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, is a true underdog, a 5-seed that has upset its way to the Finals. The 2020 Heat blueprint is a case study in how highly effective organizations work. In basketball terms, they are a blend of 1980s grit and 2010s sparkle. In management terms, their blend of iterative leadership, talent development, and holistic team culture mark them as a model organization. Let's take each of those points in turn, and how they apply to leaders in non-athletic competitions.
Iterative leadership: Coach Eric Spoelstra Head Coach Eric Spoelstra is thought to be one of the best tactical coaches in the game, though his Hall of Fame credentials have often been discounted for two major reasons. Firstly, he replaced Pat Riley, the legendary former LA Lakers and New York Knicks coach, who started building Miami in his own image in the mid-1990s. Secondly, his coaching was overlooked because he had the pleasure of coaching James and Wade. With a team that looks sustainable for years to come, this underdog run is perhaps the first pure showcase of his coaching talents. Consider the team's 4-1 skewering of the heavily favored Milwaukee Bucks in the second round, who had repeated as having the best regular season in the league and the back-to-back most valuable player in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Under Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks have been maniacally consistent in on-court strategies and talent decisions — like limiting the MVP's minutes — and that has led to playoff losses to more adaptable teams. That's just how some coaches are. An unnamed exec told the Action Network: "Principles are everything and they would rather lose than abandon their beliefs." But not Spoelstra: He adjusts players' rotation and defensive formats depending on the opposition and game situation. Build the wall to stymy Giannis. Deploy a zone to frustrate the Celtics ball movement and allow thundergod, Jimmy Butler, to play free safety and close out games. Don't stick to principles; commit to winning. Adjust along the way.
Developing and trusting your talent: Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro Duncan Robinson is the Heat's sharpshooter par excellence and probably the best, or at least the most efficient, three-ball shooter in the league this year. He was an undrafted free agent. He went to Williams College and transferred to the University of Michigan, where he recently told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, the team didn't run plays for him. He never really considered making it in the league; god forbid, he wanted to go into media. But, as the lore has it, Miami's ace scouting corps saw purity in his shooting stroke, so they brought him in. Then, when on the team, he was hesitant to take big (or small) shots. So he spoke with his coach. "That's when we talked about impostor syndrome," Shelburne quotes Robinson as saying. "I brought it up to him, like, 'I don't know if you ever heard of it.' "And he goes, 'Heard of it? I lived it,'" she reports Robinson recalling. This is beautiful, empathic coaching. Spoelstra was 40 when he coached the Heatles and never had an NBA playing career. So he related to his raw, apparently sensitive talent, and instilled in him confidence.
Then, on the other end, Tyler Herro, the rookie born in 2000, torched the Celtics for 37 points in an emphatic, crucial Game 4 win. On draft night, he wore a blue floral suit, a black shirt, and a gold chain instead of a tie. He remarked that he had "the most drip in the room" at the draft. (As Greg Cote of the Miami Herald explained: "The most drip as in the floral purple jacket he wore to his entree into the NBA. The most drip as in the rope of gold chain around his neck, and the fat, blingy watch on his left wrist." And now this firey, swaggering rook needs to come up big if the Heat are going to get the upset. Who else but Spoles would give Herro the rock in these crucial endgame minutes and trust the 20-year-old to lead them to the promised land? And where else but Miami, in its neon Vice jerseys, would the Wisconsin-born Herro be so much at home? Jimmy Butler summed up the talent strategy: "The Miami Heat look for those diamonds in the rough, players that are hungry, players that got some dog in them and play for one another," he said. Recruiters should all seek the same.
On culture and fit: Jimmy Butler Jimmy Butler, departed son of my beloved and reviled Chicago Bulls, was thought to be a locker-room cancer. The detonator of the Bulls, the beleaguered Minnesota Timberwolves, the reality show calamity that is the Philadelphia 76ers. But as a fellow BI editor who will remain nameless observed to me: Jimmy isn't the problem; he just hates when people don't work hard (Sixers star Ben Simmons has a mental block against shooting three points) and respects you if you do. And now he is in this tough-as-nails, relentless team. He wakes up at a spit-take-inducing 3:30 am and has inspired his teammates to do so. He didn't bring any family to the NBA bubble because it's a "business trip," and he is the Jiro Dreams of Sushi of hoopers. Earlier in the bubble, Butler expanded on the culture fit with NBA.com's Shaun Powell. He said that Wade recommended Miami to him because the culture and how the organization works is a fit for who he his. "When I got here I could do nothing but smile, because of the way everyone talks to each other, the way everything is laid out on the table, you come in and work and then we have fun," he added. "This is the reason I play the game. These guys are like me in so many ways that I absolutely love being here, to compete with and for these guys. I'm having so much fun." And that's why, he says, he gets in the ear of other players, which didn't work at previous stops but is part of heat culture. "They got me to be me," Butler said. "I'll get on guys when they're not doing their jobs, and they'll cuss me out when I'm not doing mine. It's not personal. It may not always come out that way, but I mean well. That's how they want it here." In the startup or corporate circles, he embodies what is "no mercy/no malice." Being ruthless about performance and effectiveness but not taking it personally, not making the tension or conflict a comment on your or their identity but as an outflow of commitment to the larger organization. "Best decision I ever made," he said. "I belong here." SEE ALSO: NBA players are the most powerful employees in America — and they know it Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How NASA strategically paints its vehicles for space
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The ESPN analyst is enthralled by the 2020 series, with players isolating and ‘Black Lives Matter’...The ESPN analyst is enthralled by the 2020 series, with players isolating and ‘Black Lives Matter’ painted on the court.
NBA players made history on Wednesday, when a sudden "wildcat strike" in protest over police violence...NBA players made history on Wednesday, when a sudden "wildcat strike" in protest over police violence brought the league's restart, and playoffs, to a sudden halt. The history of the league shows a willingness by players to strike since the 1950s, but activism has never been as common or pronounced as in the Black Lives Matter era. The league, Disney, and ESPN have billions riding on the conclusion of the season, and the players know the leverage they have. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. In June, not everyone thought the NBA should come back. Doing so would only detract from the historic protests over the police killing of George Floyd, caught on video. Now, less than a month after play resumed on July 30, Milwaukee Bucks players have gone on strike — what the team originally called a "boycott" — to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, also caught on video. Blake was shot in the back and now appears to be paralyzed from the waist down. By the evening after Milwaukee's players went on strike, the next three games had been called off. The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that Bucks players were attempting to contact Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul from their locker room. Later on Wednesday night, Charania, David Aldridge, and Joe Vardon reported that the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers — along with Milwaukee the two other best teams in the league this season — had voted to cancel the season, although other reports indicated the vote was not a binding one. By Thursday, Charania was reporting that the players had agreed to continue playing, "but want to find new and improved ways to make social justice statements." They have already made a bold statement. The sudden collective action by NBA players, essentially a "wildcat strike," when union members stop work without leadership's authorization, is already the largest sudden work stoppage in NBA history. Even if the playoffs conclude, this moment has high stakes for the league and its partners, especially Disney and its subsidiary ESPN, with $1 billion invested in creating the "bubble" that allows play to safely resume. NBA players, long unionized and ready and willing to strike, have all the leverage right now over their league and its partners. The dynamics have clicked into focus over the past 24 hours: A group of overwhelmingly Black workers has withheld its labor to advocate for political changes, with billions on the line. They are the most powerful employees in America, and they are acting like they know it. Labor, employment, and replace-ability The members of the Players Association have outstanding leverage, compared to many employees, due to a range of factors. The first is commonly associated with Michael Jordan: the superstar effect. Teams already employ the best of the best: just 1.2% of college players make it to the NBA, and 0.03% of high school players, per the NCAA. That might suggest thousands of basketball players are waiting in line to play if a player steps out of line, the superstar effect — whereby the marginal difference between very good and exceptional leads to outsize financial rewards — allows for big name players with lofty endorsements to make it difficult for teams to just get rid of them. The same holds true for today's leaders, like the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Lakers' LeBron James. Another is the presence of a strong union, an exception in current American business. Per Investopedia, all the major American sports leagues have had unions for about 70 years. The NBA union was repeatedly locked out under former Commissioner David Stern, who famously took a scorched-earth approach to negotiations. But Stern isn't commissioner anymore, now it's his protege Adam Silver, a famously player-friendly leader, and the former union chief that Stern regularly got the better off, Billy Hunter, was replaced by Michele Roberts, a fierce cogitator. Plus, the NBA players union benefits from having superstar players leading the drive. All-star Chris Paul serves as president, and superstars like Kyrie Irving — who warned that the bubble could distract from civil rights momentum — and Finals MVP Andre Iguodala work as vice presidents. James was also once a vice president of the union, a turning point for the unit's high-profile leadership. NBA players have been leading strikes since the 1950s Back in 1959, a few years after the NBA players' union formed, Minneapolis Lakers star Elgin Baylor sat out a high-profile game after a hotel refused to house him with the rest of his white teammates. Baylor told his teammate and fellow NBA great Rod Hundley, "Rod, I'm a human being. I'm not an animal put in a cage and let out for the show," the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Baylor's protest resulted in then-NBA Commissioner Maurice Podoloff promising to end hotel separation between Black and white players. A few years later, after the union was unsuccessful in getting pensions and other requests approved, a strike was on the cards at the 1964 All-Star Game, the first ever televised. "The players were controlled by the owners," former all-star Jerry West told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. "All of us felt like we were slaves in the sense we had no rights." The owners agreed to the players' demands, and the game was delayed about five minutes. The Black Lives Matter era raised the stakes for activism — and aggressive labor tactics The next major threat of a strike happened many years later, in 2014, when players were ready to strike during a nationally televised game in the aftermath of audio being leaked to the media depicting Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend to delete a photo of her and Magic Johnson because he is Black. The San Jose Mercury News' Marcus Thompson reported that plans for "all" NBA games were being formulated that day, but Commissioner Adam Silver took the unprecedented step of banishing Sterling and forcing the sale of his team to, eventually, billionaire Steve Ballmer. The Sterling affair demonstrated how race has become a catalyst for collective action by NBA players in the last decade. Basketball players have perhaps been most politically vocal since Trump's election, as many prominent players, coaches, and owners have denounced the president. The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors, the NBA champions since 2017, have not visited the White House. The Milwaukee Bucks have become particularly outspoken on the issue of police misconduct after the team's Black players have suffered abuse in their hometown. Sterling Brown is suing the city for, among other things, tasing him and kneeling on his neck, and has written extensively in The Players' Tribune about his experience. In response to the strike last night, the Bucks released a statement that said in part, "We stand firmly against reoccurring issues of excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging the black community." After Blake's shooting, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said while Republicans had been "spewing fear" during the national convention this week, Black Americans were the ones "getting killed." He told media on Wednesday, "It's amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It's really so sad." The GOAT and the whole new game In the Wednesday night vote held by the players, one voice was leading in arguing for the end of the season: Lakers superstar and NBA icon LeBron James, who had tweeted earlier that night: "F*** THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT". It's fitting James is a major player in this turn to activism, since a large part of his case for "greatest of all time," or "GOAT," rests on his greater outspokenness on civil rights issues than Michael Jordan, the reigning GOAT. This dates at least back to James speaking out about the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012, itself so reminiscent of Floyd and Blake. James' willingness to advocate for social change is one of many examples of the NBA community growing more vocal as the Black Lives Matter movement emerged in the last decade. Perhaps James is so vocal about his political beliefs because as the game's best player for much of his career, he has long known something his colleagues are all starting to come around to: His power lies in how he can't be replaced. Without the players, there is no game, after all, and to these athletes, pro basketball is no longer just a game.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A cleaning expert reveals her 3-step method for cleaning your entire home quickly
'My spirit just left my body': Shaquille O'Neal gives an emotional speech about teammate Kobe Bryant
Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O'Neal gave some emotional remarks following the death of his former...Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O'Neal gave some emotional remarks following the death of his former teammate and fellow NBA All-Star, Kobe Bryant. "My spirit just left my body, I just wish I could be able to say one thing ... one last thing to the people we lost. Because once you're gone, you're gone forever," O'Neal said. "Our names will be attached together for what we did," O'Neal added. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O'Neal gave some emotional remarks following the death of his former teammate and fellow NBA All-Star, Kobe Bryant. "We up here, we work a lot," O'Neal said during a broadcast on TNT. "And I think a lot of times we take stuff for granted. Like I don't talk to you guys much about, as much as I need to, the fact that we're not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony." "Those are the things you can't get back," O'Neal said. The two Lakers were an iconic duo for the organization during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The two players joined the Lakers in 1996, and together they would win three consecutive titles under the leadership of coach Phil Jackson. The two players would later separate after a competitive feud. O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, while Bryant stayed on with the Lakers. O'Neal eventually retired in 2011, five years before Bryant's last game. "And the fact that we lost probably the world's greatest Laker, the world's greatest basketball player, just ... listen, people are going to say 'take your time and get better,' but it's going to be hard for me," O'Neal said. "My spirit just left my body, I just wish I could be able to say one thing ... one last thing to the people we lost. Because once you're gone, you're gone forever." "Our names will be attached together for what we did," O'Neal added. Bryant died on January 26 at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash that also killed Gianna, his 13-year-old daughter. In addition to Kobe and Gianna Bryant, seven others were killed in the crash in Calabasas, California. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting an investigation into the crash with assistance from the FBI. Watch the TNT clip here: “I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while.. it definitely changes me.”’@SHAQ on the loss of his brother, Kobe. pic.twitter.com/dM5i0DDgGK — NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 29, 2020 SEE ALSO: Kobe Bryant, 41, dies in helicopter crash in Calabasas, California Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 5 things about the NFL that football fans may not know