Corporate Knowledge: The Spurs and luck
Success, no matter what your endeavor, is equally reliant on luck and circumstance as it is on diligence, ingenuity, and preparation.
Even the best laid plans can be rendered irrelevant without the right breaks along the way. And should an opportunity present itself, one cannot fully take advantage of it unless they are prepared to do so.
Over at Pounding the Rock, a contributor by the alias Big50 touched upon the roles of luck and skill:
“Yes, the events that combined to allow the Spurs to draft Tim Duncan were at the very least exceptionally fortuitous. From David Robinson’s injury, to the makeup of the team in 1997, to the bouncing of lottery balls — everything out of the control of the franchise broke in favor of San Antonio. But that’s not the end of the story, it was the beginning. And you can appreciate the fortune that the Spurs have enjoyed, while also understanding that it the rest of the story that’s still being written could only exist, because there are smart, motivated and hardworking people that did the work to put the entire team together so that it could experience success.
And there’s nothing the slightest bit lucky about that.”
First off, between Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, only Parker is validation of the San Antonio Spurs vaunted scouting acumen. Duncan was an obvious choice brought about by a fortunate set of unfortunate injuries. And for all the accolades Manu Ginobili brings the Spurs for their international scouting, had the Spurs had any inkling of what Ginobili was to become, they certainly wouldn’t have waited until the second-to-last pick of the draft to nab him.
The Spurs are no more genius for drafting Ginobili than I would be for winning the Lottery with quick pick numbers. But that’s beside the point.
Two years ago, in quoting Jim Collins of How the Mighty Fall, I pointed out that most empires/dynasties/etc. recognize the role luck played in their fortune and how fleeting it can be, pushing them to work harder to compensate for when said luck runs out:
“The book identifies one trait commonly found amongst all great leaders:
- The best leaders we’ve studied never presume they’ve reached ultimate understanding of all the factors that brought them success. For one thing, they retain a somewhat irrational fear that perhaps their success stems in large part from fortuitous circumstance.
Popovich often jokes that when Tim Duncan retires, he will join him shortly out the door. Much of his success, Popovich quickly attributes to the lucky bounce of a few ping pong balls, which is the sort of attitude one would expect from a man who once lived in the dorms of Division III Pomona-Pitzer before rising up the NBA ranks.
Luck and chance are essential to any bit of success. Those who understand this, that retain that irrational fear, often drive themselves to be better positioned when that luck runs out.”
For every bit of success the Spurs have enjoyed that can be attributed to reasons beyond their control, they’ve also done a masterful job, as head coach Gregg Popovich likes to put it, of “not screwing things up.”
I encourage you to go back and read the rest of the excerpt and think about how it pertains to this season and what the Spurs have done to position themselves for yet another playoff run.
Lady Luck is a promiscuous girl, and yet the Spurs have managed to keep her faithful for the most part. The Spurs are hardly the only team to draft a Tim Duncan-like centerpiece. One only need to look at the situation in Orlando to see how things could have turned out much different.
But we’re over a decade into this run and as much as luck can be credited to their success, there’s something to be said for not squandering it.