Make room for A players: Stars don’t always turn up on your schedule

Judging talent and putting it to best use for both employee and organizational growth is one of a CEO’s most important responsibilities. One of my favorite stories about recognizing and employing a person’s unique talents (or not) comes from the 1984 Olympic basketball trials.

English: Former basketball player Michael Jordan

English: Former basketball player Michael Jordan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The coach of the team was the legendary Bobby Knight, arguably the greatest basketball coach of his era. During the trials one player stood out above all the others: a skinny junior shooting guard from North Carolina by the name of Michael Jordan. Even for the hard to impress Knight, Jordan was clearly special. So special that Knight told Stu Inman, the GM of the Portland Trailblazers and an old friend of his, that Jordan was the best player he had ever seen.

Portland had the second pick in the draft that year, behind the Houston Rockets who were planning to draft center Hakeem Olajuwon from the University of Houston. Portland felt like they needed a center, since they had already drafted Clyde Drexler the previous year to play shooting guard. Knight told Inman that they should draft Jordan instead of Sam Bowie, the next top-rated center available in the draft.

Inman reportedly told Knight, “But Bobby we don’t need a shooting guard we need a center.” To which Knight famously replied, “Ok then draft Jordan and play him at center!” The rest is history. Jordan went on to become the greatest player in NBA history, and Sam Bowie is the answer to a trivia question.

Don’t let your short-term goals cloud your judgment: Hire talent when you have the chance, and if you don’t have a position open for them, make one.

Related article:

Why B players will not become A players (VentureBeat)


  1. Recently my son-in-law interviewed for a software engineering job. After several rounds, the company contacted him to say they were hiring a better qualified person for the position, but that they were so impressed by him that they’d decided to create another position so he could come on board. Unfortunately, many companies don’t understand the concept of hiring talent over experience.

    • What a great story! Thank you for sharing.



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