The Golden State Warriors have been the talk of the NBA this season, as they attempt to defend their championship from a year ago. They are on pace to break the all-time single-season win total of 72, held by the 1995 to 1996 Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.
As reigning champions, it's no surprise they have an outstanding record this year, but few saw a potential record-breaking season in the making. The Warriors' success can be attributed to many long-proven strong business principles.
Here are nine reasons behind their run at NBA immortality.
1. A bias towards home-grown talent
In an era where every off-season's headlines are dominated by talk of what free agent will sign with which new team, the Warriors are different. They have developed the core of their team through the NBA draft. All-Stars Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and last season's MVP Stephen Curry were all drafted originally by the Warriors.
Great organizations hire well. They have a definite type of person in mind who will not only fulfill a role from a talent standpoint, but who also will fit in with the values of the organization.
2. A strong promote-from-within philosophy
Golden State has not only drafted (hired) well, they've also allowed their talent to develop within its system. Each all-star player has steadily improved his performance season to season. As their experience and abilities mature, players have been allowed to play a more significant role. Once ready, they have both an opportunity and a place to step to. A culture that rewards strong performance is one that creates a healthy appetite to grow.
3. A strong team concept and culture
The Warriors are known in NBA circles as an extremely close-knit team. Each member seems to buy into their role on the team and in the overall big picture. From the stars to the bench players, everyone appears to know and accept their roles. As results have demonstrated, it's clear the team has a unified culture. A great team -- or company -- culture is like a royal flush in poker -- extremely rare and powerful, beating any other hand.
4. High-character team members
During last season's championship run, along with the blistering pace they are setting this year, the Warriors have been remarkably controversy free. You don't hear about their players getting into off-court issues. In sports and in business, drama equals distraction. And distraction almost always results in reduced performance. By assembling a team of high-character individuals, the Warriors have allowed the players to focus on how to win, versus answering questions about a teammate’s indiscretions.
5. Their best player is also their hardest worker.
Early in Stephen Curry's NBA career, he was plagued by injuries. After struggling to stay on the court, he committed to an intense training program to both rehabilitate himself and to prevent future injuries. Warriors assistant GM Kirk Lacob said about Curry's intense training program in an espn.go.com article, "I think people would pay to watch Steph work out."
In truth, his pre-game ritual of ball handling and shooting drills has become the stuff of NBA legend. In any organization, your best player or most high-profile employee sets the tone for everyone else, good or bad. When they are not only your best, but also the hardest working, the rest will naturally follow suit.
6. They have fun.
One might argue that winning begets fun. And while that’s hard to debate, the opposite can be equally true. When a team allows itself to have fun in the process of shooting for a goal, it means they likely will be loose. Too much self-imposed pressure has a way of producing a tight performance. A team that enjoys the process is much more likely to sustain success and overcome short-term losses.
7. Don't let success get to your head.
One of the most challenging things to do in sports is to repeat a championship season. In fact, it's not uncommon for teams to suffer from a championship hangover the year after winning it all. Suddenly, they have more media demands, more products to endorse and are altogether pulled in multiple directions. Not to mention hubris. It's easy to forget the hard work it took to get to the top of the mountain and take for granted that it can be replicated. The best teams never allow themselves to get too arrogant.
8. Have a strong 'why.'
Despite winning the NBA championship last season, some critics dismissed the Warriors long-term staying power. They wrote that the Warriors had somehow "lucked" into a championship by not having to face certain teams in the playoffs. The Warriors came into the 2015 - 2016 season on a mission. Their "why" -- or motivation -- was simple: to prove to the naysayers that last season was no fluke and to validate their title.
9. Don't underestimate the underdog.
Stephen Curry is now widely considered the best basketball player on the planet. However, when he was drafted in 2009, six teams passed on the opportunity to select him with their first-round pick. Actually, few experts could have predicted the unprecedented success both Curry and the Golden State Warriors are experiencing.
Every organization has an underdog who never got a chance from others. Fostering an environment that allows the under-evaluated team member to blossom into a superstar is crucial for maximizing your team.
For a team to win at the Warriors level, a lot of pieces must fit nicely together. While every team can't be NBA champions, every organization can learn a thing or two from the Warriors' example.