What if I told you the best team in the NBA this year and quite possibly in history played the game its own way? Golden State Warriors set their record 73 wins in a season playing position-less, ‘small ball’ basketball unlocking a new level of offensive efficiency that businesses would do well to scrutinize.

I’ve been witnessing something magical with the Warriors and their chase to eclipse the 1996 Chicago Bulls NBA record 72 wins in a season. All five of their players on the court at any time can dribble, pass, shoot, rebound, and defend. Their opponents however have kept the traditional approach of having five positions with distinct skill sets: one to dribble and pass, another two to shoot and another two to rebound and block shots.

“Golden State’s player versatility therefore created mismatches with a big, slow guy guarding a much smaller, quicker player and led to easier scoring opportunities and thus more wins.”

The 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors are an interesting case study if you reframe their high-octane offense in the context of business.

The sport of basketball is actually a pretty simple game from a high level. It’s a game of constraints: you can only take so many shots during the course of a 48-minute game. The difference between good and great teams is the efficiency of which those shots are converted into points.

“Just like in basketball, the difference between good and great companies is the efficiency in which they can develop and bring products or services to market.”

What drives efficient scoring in basketball?

Let’s go back to the constraints; there are only so many shots to be taken during a game. Efficient behavior is shooting three pointers or ‘threes’ at a very high percentage. Some teams and businesses are inadequately equipped to play that game, but still compete at it, and lose. So the question becomes: what are the things you need to do to better compete?
Golden State bent the math in their favor by taking and making more three pointers than any other team in the league. For proof, if you compare their league-leading 41.8% three point % for the season to that of the 3rd-place Toronto Raptors (37.0%), the gap (4.8%) between Golden State and Toronto is greater than the gap between Toronto and the 2nd-to-last-place Minnesota Timberwolves (33.1%).

Exporting basketball math to business

In order to drive shareholder value, any company is looking for high value, high margin opportunities. The questions to ask are: are the opportunities we have two pointers or three pointers? Are we even good at shooting three pointers? The point is, efficient businesses compete in their core competencies, round out weaknesses, and ultimately succeed in finding new ways to bend the math in their favor as Golden State has.

“Golden State’s success is a direct function of their personnel and not playing the game the way it has always been played.”

It’s the approach we at the adidas Group also adopted in 2015 and our strong results show it is working. Our‘Creating the New’ strategy has the same potential to disrupt and achieve the same legendary results that Golden State has. Key Cities, Open Source, and Speed are amazing opportunities to curate brand experiences that our consumer has never had with any brand in our industry.


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by Tobias 16.04.2016
Excellent post. I like sports analogies for business. I think Golden State's example also shows that a team of good Allrounders can outperform a team of specialists.
by Melissa 18.04.2016
Truly great post. I love your point on the team focusing on what it takes to compete. Focus on the things that really move the needle, prioritize, know your strengths - the recipe for success.
by Margaret Raabe 02.06.2016
Great article. I love the message that the key is to focus on what you do well and capitalize on it, in addition to not being afraid to go against the grain. That philosophy can be applied to sports, business, and life!
by Mary Mardesich 21.06.2016
Great article Matt! I need to look at Linkedin more often so I don't miss out! You wrote this over two months ago!
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