Hakeem the Dream on Success

If you like sports as window into other parts of life, take a look at this video of Dwight Howard working with Hakeem Olajuwon this past off-season.

I went to school in Houston during the heyday of Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon and the Rockets teams that contended for several and won 2 NBA titles. He was noted for his “dream shake” move and ended his long NBA career as the the all time leader in blocked shots. He was a first ballot hall of famer and re-invented his position.

As I watched, I couldn’t help thinking about a few life & management lessons that maybe weren’t totally obvious.

1 – Keep it simple. Hakeem points out to Howard (who is noted for his athleticism, but also his failure to develop much technique) that there are a limited number of things to do with the ball in the post. But if you execute them perfectly with technique and speed, it’s virtually impossible to defend.

2 – Creativity within the rules. Note the subtlety within the few simple rules. There are variants that take experience and practice to master. It’s like complexity theory; simple rules, but limitless outcomes based on how you use them.

3 – It’s always hard work. Hakeen retired in 2002 and still looks like he could play. There is no doubt that he practiced these moves tens of thousands of time. The golfer Gary Player (and several others) is often quoted as having said, “the more I practice the luckier I get.” Here’s some more evidence. Even the best need coaching and practice. Hakeem looks smoother at 47 than Howard does at 25. It’s because Howard is used to relying on his power. Hakeem is teaching him to use his brain and his speed too. But it takes practice and commitment.

4 – The value of coaching. Howard plays in the NBA, has been to the finals, has won awards including all NBA and one thinks watching this…imagine what he could do now that he’s actually had coaching?

5 – Potential’s exciting, but unfulfilled potential’s a bummer. As a Celtics fan, I hope Howard doesn’t improve. But as a sports fan, what a player he could be. 

Thanks to my favorite sports columnist Bill Simmons for the cool link.

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