Contrary to his reputation as a football-obsessed grump, Nick Saban is aware of the world around him. Parts of it, at least. For example: Basketball. Saban is a fan of hoops, evidenced by his astonishing undefeated record in lunchtime pick-up ball. He’s also cited Michael Jordan numerous times to make a point.
“We show our team a video of Michael Jordan talking about making the game-winning shot,” Saban said before Alabama’s blowout of Notre Dame to win the 2012 national championship. “It doesn’t matter how many game-winning shots he’s made in the past. The only one that matters is the one he’s about to take.
“That’s the whole deal. Can you focus on the next shot? You’re so zeroed in on the next shot that you don’t have time to think about the other ones. You really don’t.”
On Thursday, Saban brought in Kobe Bryant to speak to the Tide on leadership. In addition to being a 5-time NBA champion and an Olympic gold medal winner, Bryant is now an Oscar-winning filmmaker (look it up) and something of a Svengali on the ways of the world.
Kobe spoke to Alabama about leadership, something he struggled with in the middle portion of his career. After pairing with Shaquille O’Neal to win three straight NBA titles from 2000-02 and play for another in 2004, Kobe famously pushed Shaq out of LA and then struggled to adapt to his role as the team’s sole leader. Kobe scored more than ever — averaging a career high 35.4 points per game in 2006, the highest scoring average by any player since Jordan in 1987 — but the team fell off. The Lakers fell out of the playoffs entirely in the club’s first Shaq-less season, then failed to get out of the first round in the next two.
After Kobe developed as a leader (and the front office added some All-Star players), the Lakers were back in the Finals each year from 2008-10, winning the final two.
“To be an effective leader, you have to be a really good listener, not to what’s being said, but to what’s not being said. You have to be really observant. That was a big transition for me. I was a scorer and a floor general, to now, with Pau (Gasol) and Lamar (Odom) trying to win championships, to being a leader. That meant putting others first. That means not worrying about, are you in rhythm? Are you playing playing well? Are you ready to go in this game, or are they ready? What can I do to help them be ready? That’s the big transition to make.
They all have things they want to accomplish. And as a leader you’re like, ‘Okay, what are those things and how can I help them accomplish that within the system and structure that we are trying to do collectively?'”
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) August 10, 2018
It’s probably only a matter of time until Saban brings LeBron in to speak with the Tide.
On second thought, maybe not.