What Kobe Bryant can teach us about sports business success

by bob hamer - president & founder of Sports business solutions and creator of theclubhouse | January 28, 2020

In a post originally published by Bob Hamer on LinkedIN on December 1, 2015.

Yes, I know playing the game itself as an athlete is very different than the business conducted in the office cubicles. Players study game film, practice and then perform on game night in front of thousands of people. Their job is to win games, and ours in sports business is to fill the building with fans, improve the game experience and generate revenue. But the skills required to succeed at both can sometimes be similar.

I have to admit, I’m a little biased here. Growing up in Southern California it’s hard NOT to be a Laker fan, and I was a big one. My earliest basketball memories were of watching Laker games with Eddie Jones, Nick Van Exel and Elden Campbell. But then Kobe came along… It was 1996, I was 13 years old. He was captivating to watch, the way he moved on the court was just different. From his rookie year on you knew he was going to be special, and he was. He quickly became my favorite player and continued to be long after I left California.

He wasn’t an easy player to like. He succeeded on the court, but struggled off the court in his personal life with his marriage, infidelity, legal battles and with how he treated some members of the media and others. If you don’t like Kobe Bryant as a person, you have good reason to. But whether you like him or not, you can’t deny he’s one of the best basketball players to ever lace them up.

We all aspire to be the best we can and successful at work. As it relates to basketball, Kobe Bryant was just that. There are a few character traits he possessed that helped him become a great player and I believe they can help us be great in sports business as well:

1. Work Ethic – Like many of the greats, Kobe’s work ethic was unmatched. Whether it was extra weight training or jumpers after the game. He held himself to the highest standard and wouldn’t stop until he got there. For us, whether it’s practicing our sales scripting, putting in extra time on the weekend or going the extra mile at work, if we keep striving for greatness and don’t stop, we can get there too.

2. Consistency – His career spans 20 years. A 17-time all-star, 15-time all NBA performer, 12-time all NBA defensive team member, 5-time NBA champion, 2 time scoring champion, and he ranks 3rd all-time on the leagues scoring list. The accolades show his consistency and commitment to success each year. In our business you don’t “arrive” after one good sales campaign, it requires getting better and continually performing each year. We need to recommit mentally and emotionally each season and continue to perform at a high level.

3. Passion – His passion for his craft and the game of basketball is evident in his retirement poem. He’s quoted as saying “a love so deep I gave you my all, from my mind and body to spirit and soul”. His passion for his work drove him and pushed him every day. I’m a big believer in doing work you believe in and enjoy. If you have a passion for your craft and love what you do, you’ll be happier, more energetic and want to work harder. Not because you have to, because you want to. That drive leads to success.

4. Self-reflection – In his retirement press conference he referenced the “Zen master” Phil Jackson and meditation. He said now when he sits silently and let his mind wander it begins to drift towards other things, not just basketball, the way it always has. That’s when he knew it was time to move on. In our business, the seasons are long as well. It’s important to take time away from work to recharge your batteries, reflect on the year, the job, and think about your future. If your mind starts to drift towards other things, follow those thoughts. If you suppress them, you’ll begin to not enjoy your work as much and your performance will suffer. When you know it’s time to move on, or move to a new job, do it. You’ll be happier and more successful.

5. Mentoring – He’s publicly talked about how much he enjoys mentoring the younger generation of players. Lillard, Harden, Irving, Durant, Westbrook and others. His desire to give back and help not only furthers the game he loves but makes his work that much more enjoyable. One can argue it’s elongated his career. Mentoring the younger generation should be something all of us do. Without people helping us, we might not be where we are today. It makes us feel good doing something for others and helping those who need it. It can improve your quality of life and happiness and elongate your career too.

6. Seeking advice – No matter how successful you are or where you are in your career, learning from people above you who have done it before is paramount to success. We need to always be humble enough to admit we don’t know it all. We can always learn, and grow, and get better. Kobe sought out Jordan when discussing retirement, someone who had been there before. Jordan encouraged him to do it on his terms, and enjoy the remaining time he had left in the game. It looks like Kobe’s doing just that. Seek out mentors in your life who have done it before, they can be very valuable in your career.

Kobe hasn’t had a perfect life, he’s made mistakes along the way. But by doing some of the things above he’s had arguably one of the most successful and decorated basketball careers in NBA history. We all can only hope for the same in our careers.

So long Kobe, thanks for the basketball memories and for the lessons we can learn from your success on the court.

-BH

Bob Hamer is the President and Founder of Sports Business Solutions and creator of theClubhouse. SBS provides sales training, consulting and recruiting services for sports teams and through theClubhouse they provide educational information and career services for current and aspiring sports industry pros. Prior to that he was the Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service for the Phoenix Suns. The company mission is to help people succeed in sports business. To learn more about SBS visit www.sportsbusiness.solutions and follow along on social. T: https://twitter.com/SportsBizSol IG: https://www.instagram.com/SportsBizSol/