Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on scoring and missing

Sometimes people overlook… important statistics. My basketball hero, Wilt Chamberlain, who retired 56 years ago, still holds 72 NBA records, several of which are considered unbreakable, including scoring 100 points in a single game. In the 1961-62 season, Wilt set the NBA record of most field goals made (1,597). However, in that same season he also holds the record for most field goals missed (1,562). At the same time we celebrate record achievements, we need to acknowledge epic failures that make those achievements possible. Our successes make us happy, but our failures make us stronger. Michael Jordan expressed that awareness best: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 3,00 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to make the winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar How do I feel seeing my NBA records get broken? Elated and inspired

GO! Play some games. Miss some shots. It’s the only way to make a few.

Dropping catches

In Moneyball Michael Lewis describes how baseball manager Billy Beane – following the work of sabermetrician Bill James – used statistics to upturn perceptions about a group of undervalued players.

These players often ‘just missed’ – they didn’t quite make base, didn’t quite make the catch, or just fumbled it – and were labelled unathletic or clumsy by coaches and fans alike.

In a lot of cases, though, it turned out that they were faster and made more catches than most of their peers, and this was exactly why they had a lot of near misses: they got close to making runs or catches that other players missed by so much, it didn’t even look like they’d missed.

If someone never seems to drop any balls, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re great at catching. And if someone seems to be miss a lot, it might be for a good reason.

For most of us, missing more is a step on the way to more catches.

*sabermetrics: the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records

Baseball

“How do I take these thoroughbreds and turn them into a team?”

Getting a team together? Start building it before you’re even in the room.

Kathy Delaney-Smith is the coach of the Harvard woman’s basketball team… A few years ago she was asked to be the coach of Team USA in the international basketball competition. And what she was going to have was a dozen kids who’d been selected from a hundred who tried out, the very best female basketball players in the United States. And the problem was that they were going to be competing for five starting positions and moreover came from schools that were highly competitive.

So she had this question: “How do I take these thoroughbreds and turn them into a team?” And she was only going to have four days of practice before they went to Turkey to actually do the competition.
And what she did was … she started building the team over a month before people came to Colorado Springs to the training center for their first practice.

She formed diads or triads … of women ahead of time by email and gave them little assignments to do, things like, since the tournament was going to be in Turkey, “What are the best museums in Turkey?” or “How would you teach the Turkish alphabet to someone who didn’t know it?”, and they had to do these things by email before they showed up and then make their presentation of their report when they arrived at Colorado Springs.

And it was amazing, she said, when they arrived they made their presentation to the rest of the team and the team USA staff, and it was all very funny, and they had started to bond as a team even before they started practice, which she said transcended the latent competitiveness that they were arriving with. So there’s all kind of creative things that you can do to try to help this set of people who are really individuals come together and experience themselves as a team.

Richard Hackman on the People and Projects Podcast