Successful companies have successful leaders. You would agree with me that if you work for one of the top 100 companies in South Africa, your chief-in-command is a relatively elderly looking man or woman. Throughout culture humans are more inclined to listening and following an elder than a young wet-behind-the-ears-know-it-all.
What happens when your job requires not only experience and intellect but athleticism also? Would you still take leadership from an elderly athlete?
The National Basketball League (NBL) has thankfully kicked off and has been running surprisingly well for just over two weeks now. The league is incredibly exciting to watch, not because the standard is anywhere close to the NBA but for the reason of diversity which teams are bringing to the game.
Some teams have loaded their squads with a mixture of older league winning professionals and ‘young bucks’ as they are called, some coaches refuse to have any players over the age of 24. There are two distinct styles at play, one of youth and vitality where these teams tend to run the ball hard back and forth down the court, almost as fast as a table tennis ball being hit back and forth.
Then there is another style where older more experienced athletes take a more strategic and calculated approach to the game. For these teams, it is not about pressing the ball all the time and every time but rather assessing each situation, finding weakness and capitalizing on it. Some people might say their style is “becoming of an old man” while others say “it’s better to assess the burning building before running in”.
The exciting part about the BNL is that everyone has something to prove. The young believe this is their turf and don’t play nicely with others and the experienced believe that they still deserve to be on the court and respect is everything. There was no bigger statement made in the BNL than by 41 year old 6 foot 8 Alaska Kipundu where he rejected nearly everyone in the opposing team last week.
He even pulled a ball right out of the air from a shot by the shooting guard. The statement that was made, that in playing professional basketball, both local and abroad, for over 20 years he still has something unique to offer his team and the league, which very few ‘ballers’ can match.
It is early days for the BNL and I believe there is a place for both styles in basketball right now.
In not having a professional league for years, you can’t expect players to be of international standard.
The analogy I will use, and quite fitting to the state of basketball over the last 20 years, is expecting basketball in South Africa to progress fast is like asking communist Russia to get with the programme two weeks after communism fell.