Dribbling Towards Success: What Basketball Taught Me About Leadership

Have you ever thought about basketball and business leadership in the same breath? I know, it might sound a bit odd at first, but stick with me for a minute.

Every time I watch a basketball game, I’m reminded of the boardroom and key business leadership meetings. Surprised? So was I, initially. On the court, just like in business, you’ve got to find that sweet balance between looking out for yourself and playing for the team. It’s a dance of roles and responsibilities, shifting almost every second. Sounds a lot like a day in the life of a leader, doesn’t it?

I’m Tracy Benson, CEO of Obsesh, and we connect athletes with fans.  I watch a lot of collegiate basketball, work with basketball players, and am an obsessive basketball fan.  This isn’t a 12-step program, this is a 5 minute read on what basketball has to teach all leaders.

Way back in 1891, James Naismith designed basketball as a simple solution for students craving indoor fun. One of the rules that really sticks out to me? Only one person can hold the ball at a time. That makes basketball kind of like a strategy game, where the real action often involves those ‘without’ the ball.

This setup resonates deeply with me. Whether you’re the star player or supporting from the sidelines, every move matters. I see Draymond Green, from the Golden State Warriors, as a prime example. His passion, intelligence, and adaptability on the court mirror the very essence of a dynamic business leader. He is the leader of the Warriors with the ball, without the ball, and every 24 seconds at both ends of the court.

Drawing from my own experiences as a startup CEO, every day feels like I’m on a basketball court. With each interaction and decision, I’m faced with a choice: to go it alone or work together? How? With Partners? Collab? Universities? Collectives? And trust me, it’s not always an easy, straight forward call. In a dynamic, evergreen market – time is what you want more of and the shot clock is quick.

Basketball, for me, is more than just a game. It’s a dance of social dynamics, where everyone must balance personal ambitions with the good of the team. When things click, it’s magical. But when they don’t? Well, it reminds me of the challenges we face in business when everyone isn’t on the same page.

With basketball in mind, here are some leadership lessons I’ve gleaned and hope can help you:

  • Celebrate Teamwork: Both on the court and in business, it’s all about the team. Harness the unique strengths of each member, and remember – we rise by lifting others.
  • Stay Nimble: In basketball, players adapt on the fly. Similarly, in the world of business, being flexible and embracing change is key.
  • Value Every Contribution: Every team member, whether in sport or business, brings something special to the table. Celebrate those unique touches. They make all the difference.
  • Create a shot clock: Make decisions otherwise you have no decision, which is worse.  Imagine pre-1954 when there wasn’t a clock.  The game dragged on, no motivation to make a move and the score was something ridiculous like 19-18. Set your own clock and reasons why.

In short, basketball has been a surprising mentor in my leadership journey – teaching me about collaboration, adaptability, and the value of every individual. And if it can teach me, I believe it can inspire anyone.


CEO & Cofounder