What the Oscars and your business can learn from the NBA

Yannis Antetokounpbo is not your average Greek.  Born in a poor neighborhood of Athens.  Nigerian parents.  2.11m tall and with amazing physique, he is a wonder to watch whether it is in the Greek all star game, Team Africa or the NBA.  A young man with a great smile he can get Nigerians, Greek and people from Milwaukee excited.  At the same time!

When Dirk Nowitzki plays in New York, Germans flock to watch him.  Maybe because he won the  German Sports Personality of the Year in 2011, maybe because they knew someone who played with him at Röntgen Gymnasium or maybe because he was the first non American to win the Naismith Legacy Award.  In all, around 100 non American players from 37 countries or territories play in the NBA.

There are young American kids, black, white, yellow or red, buying basketball jerseys with the name “Kristaps Porzingis”.   Ever heard of that name before?   In fact the Latvian player is fourth in jersey sales after Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.    And those names you have probably heard of!

Now let’s compare that to the way Hollywood works.  Another year with protests about no black nominees.   Don’t see many Greeks there.  Nor Nigerians for that matters, or Germans or Latvians.  And you are surprised the ratings are down?   When a young basketball player like Porzingis is truly amazing, it is simply a matter of time before he “ends up” in the NBA.  Family, medical or political conditions can’t stop the process.   As an audience we demand that the best on the planet gather to entertain us.  We want to see how the twenty year old 2.21m power forward can manage against Nowitzki or LeBron.  It is the Gladiator arena of our age, except we pay them well instead of killing them off at the end.

An excellent foreign actor, director or composer is not sure to end up with an Oscar.  In fact he or she might never even make it to feature films.  There is no draft, no preselection, no scouts sending videos to CEOs saying “hey!  You have to watch this and get this kid on the team!”   No detailed statistics about shot percentages, rebounds or blocks per game averages.  Hollywood is a closed club where who you know is more important than what you do.  No surprise then that the old white guys in there tend to select other white people.  There is no mechanism to freshen them up as long as people keep going to the movies.

The National Basketball Association on the other hand is race agnostic.  A team owner who made racist remarks last year was instantly vaporized.  No pseudodemocratic dilly dallying or decision by committee, he was out with the first retweets.    Your business should be more like that.  Not just colour.  Forget degrees, business sense or even attitude problems with the kids you are looking at; focus on anything amazing and unique around you and build a work environment which thrives on it.  Remove obstacles like racism or any such -ism.

The NBA is where the best basketball players in the world gather to complete and put on the best show in the world.  For the entire world.  By the entire world.

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