In any professional arena it’s pretty easy to separate those who are at work to collect a paycheck, and those that are passionate about what they do. (You may have noticed that I often take things that happen in the “white collar” 9-5 day job and draw conclusions about what professional skill sets make people good at what they do in the sports arena.)
From my perspective, the closest thing to the mentality of a successful athlete is the mentality of a successful business person. Both of these professional skill sets come from a similar frame of mind. In the corporate world, I call it a kill instinct. In sports, I’ve heard it referred to as an assassin mentality. In business or sports, this trait can be best described as is the intuition, leadership ability, and motivation to know where, when, and how to execute strategy to expand your business portfolio, or win a game.
This unique personality trait usually makes people very successful, but it often makes people a little unlikable as well. These people regularly come off as harsh, or intense, when in fact they’re just extremely focused on the task at hand—winning. Take Russell Westbrook for example. The guy isn’t going to win any personality awards anytime soon, but he certainly shows up to each game ready to get the job done, albeit somewhat ineffectively from a big picture perspective.
In the business world, names like Steve Jobs & Elon Musk are associated with great success, but they’re also known for not being the most popular leaders. Jobs and Musk have a reputation for being highly opinionated about their ideas, and incredibly abrasive to those who disagree. But, regardless of personality conflict, these leaders had and have the ability to rally the troops behind their vision. Their belief and passion inspired others to follow them, allowing them to build incredible empires of success.
The same can be said of athletes like Kobe Bryant & LeBron James who are two of the most decorated champions in NBA history. They know how to win games and lead teams, but they also have a knack for getting under people’s skin. (I believe Draymond Green also fits into this category even though he’s less accomplished than Bryant or James.) Typically, these personalities get under the skin of those who are either jealous, or those who are lazy and can’t handle the pressure of being around someone who has the will to succeed no matter what. This is why I don’t want Kyrie Irving on the Nuggets’ roster, but that’s another article altogether.
Every organization needs a personality like this. This person gives teams the edge to win when competition is fierce by bringing everyone together and elevating them to the next level of competition. He or she may not be the most popular person in the company, but their skill set is required in order to win.
I’m fortunate enough to work with someone like this. She regularly pushes me outside of my comfort zone, but I’ve grown to love her for it. No one has ever challenged me like she has, and I’ve achieved things I never thought I could because she’s helped me push past barriers. Every person on our team is important, but this person brings it all together. She’s the catalyst for our success.
So, who will be this person for the Denver Nuggets? Nikola Jokic is one of the most special athletes who will every grace our city, but I don’t believe he has the Kobe Bryant mentality to build the Nuggets into a winning franchise. Paul Millsap will bring tremendous value, but only for a couple of years’ time. Given that the Nuggets are still a very young team, it’s possible that this person has yet to develop, but it remains that the Nuggets need this piece in order to be a relevant contender in the Western Conference, let alone a contender for a championship.
Starting in October, I’ll be looking for the person on the Nuggets’ roster who can step up to fill this somewhat intangible and un-quantifiable role. While Jokic is the guy the Nuggets will build the offense around, the Nuggets are still lacking in the area of leadership so time will tell if they’ve happened to stumble on someone who can take them where they want to be.