John Wooden

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Twenty years ago, I got to meet Wooden at an event for suits. One of the Master-Of-The-Universe types asked Wooden about his greatest accomplishment. Wooden didn’t miss a beat, “I was an Academic All-American at Purdue.”

This CEO puffed himself up and retorted, “But what about all those championships at UCLA?” Wooden quipped, “I didn’t make a single bounce pass or layup — the boys did all that.”

The CEO was now disoriented and looked lost. “I don’t understand, Coach. You were their leader.”

Wooden studied this guy for a minute and quietly asked, “Tell me, sir. Do you have many employees at your company?”

The guy was now back on top. “More than 60,000 and we did about $12 billion in revenue last year!”

Wooden’s eyes twinkled as he asked, “Tell me, how much could you do all by yourself?”

The CEO fell quiet. Wooden had a point to all the outsized egos in the room — you can only win with a team. It was a priceless moment with a timeless man.

Obviously, that’s not me.  It was from an email by James Brown sent to Rick Reilly from  The original is here (near the bottom).


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