NBA: How stories of Lakers legend, Heat president influenced champion Warriors owner


Posted at Mar 01 2018 04:30 PM | Updated as of Oct 21 2018 12:54 PM

Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber with head coach Steve Kerr, who describes Guber as “very caring and supportive.” Courtesy of Peter Guber's Facebook

Peter Guber is coming to the Philippines on March 20 as the featured speaker of the ABS-CBN News Channel’s Leadership Series at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila. For more details, click here.

Before Peter Guber became co-owner of the 2-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors, the basketball stories that stuck in his head had to do with his relationship with Magic Johnson and Pat Riley.

Or at least those were the narratives that stood out for Guber and were worth sharing in his New York Times bestseller, "Tell to Win."

In the book, Guber argues for the importance of "purposeful storytelling," of "reaching the audience's heart" as a tool to succeed in business.

Two examples he cited in “Tell to Win” were the experiences of Riley, currently team president of the Miami Heat.

The first was how Riley convinced the Heat in 2006, when he was also the team’s head coach, that they needed to finish the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6, not Game 7.

With the Heat ahead 3-2 and heading back to Miami for Game 6, Riley gathered his players — which included Shaquille O’Neal and a young Dwyane Wade — to drive home the sense of urgency to wrap the series.

"What did he do? He took a gamble and told his team the whole story of their victory in a single line. 'I told everybody to pack for just one day — not two days, three days, or four days — just one day of dress and change,'" Guber wrote.

"That elegant short story telegraphed Riley’s intention that there be no seventh game. The Heat wouldn’t need a second change of clothes, his implicit tale told them, because they were coming home the night of the sixth game as NBA world champions. 

“He told it. They felt it. And they did it.”

Another Riley story that Guber shared was from Riley’s days as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

NBA fans know by now how a rookie by the name of Earvin “Magic” Johnson took over from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the starting center for the Lakers in the 1980 NBA finals. 

As Riley told Guber, Johnson, 20 years old at the time, didn’t shy away from the spotlight and the scrutiny of filling the shoes of a more accomplished teammate who would miss the rest of the series because of a sprained ankle.

Johnson wasted no time allaying the other Lakers’ concerns and establishing himself as the lead guy. In the flight to Philadelphia, where Game 6 was to be held, he grabbed Abdul-Jabbar’s 1-A seat on the plane, a line no one dared cross with “the Captain.”

But Johnson wasn’t going to be cowed. “I’ll be Kareem,” he declared.

The result? The first-year player dropped 42 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists and 7 steals playing guard, forward and center en route to Riley and Johnson’s first of 5 championships together.

“Earvin Johnson’s greatest act of magic was the story he told to move his team into believing he was their hero. It was a pretty gutsy story for a rookie, but he pulled it off because he knew he was up to the role and because his ultimate goal was to benefit them all. 

“And therein lies the moral of the story for other purposeful tellers who dare to cast themselves as heroes. True teller-heroes are generous as well as powerful. They never lose sight of what’s in their story for their audience. 

“And they only cast themselves as heroes if they know they can deliver.”

As co-owner of the Warriors, Guber has been praised for being hands-on dealing with the team.

“He’s been very caring and supportive,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said in an interview posted on the Los Angeles Times in December. “He has always checked in on me. So I know how much he cares.”

Warriors general manager calls Guber as a “forward-thinking” personality.

“He’s constantly challenging the norms,” Myers said.

“He’s someone who has chosen to bet on people more so than a resume. It’s served him well.”

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