Michael Jordan Is Too Short

sheltd0008s (1)You stand in the present, this moment. You look into the future. At this juncture, standing now and looking ahead, you’re expected to make a decision. Let’s you and I go to an interested example of what seems a very ordinary situation.

It’s 1984. You’re an executive working at Adidas, a sports footwear company based in Germany but with markets in many nations, including a very important one in the United States. You learn that Adidas has a chance to sign an endorsement deal with a young basketball player from the University of North Carolina who will be playing professionally for the Chicago Bulls. His name is Michael Jordan.

So, here you are. Jordan is young, new to professional basketball, untested on that level of sports competition. How do you stand in the present and make a decision—this decision—that is all about the future?

Here’s an astounding fact. According to a Wall Street Journal article published in March 2015, the Adidas executive determined that the people who follow basketball as fans and, more importantly, as fans-who-are-consumers, much prefer watching tall players. Jordan is six feet, six inches tall. In the world of professional basketball, he is of ordinary height. In the mind of the Adidas executive, that makes him too short to have much of a fan following in the United States.

What the Adidas executive didn’t know was that Jordan would substantially alter the game of professional basketball. His quickness, speed, agility, jumping ability, and overall athletic talent, along with his work ethic, made him a powerhouse in the National Basketball Association. Combined with marketing prowess of Nike and other companies, Jordan became a global brand.

t’s easy to criticize the Adidas executive. That’s not my purpose. My purpose is to underscore for you the importance of knowing that the future can look one way from the vantage point of the present and quite another way from the vantage point of life living itself out in real time.

For those interested in a very creative approach to leadership and the future, please contact me to learn more about “Two Futures: George Marshall, Leadership, and the Coming of War, 1939-1941.”