Derek Fisher: Stud

My boy D-Fish.  For years, Fisher has been one of my favorite basketball players.  I viewed him as the “spiritual leader” of the Lakers.  He was the one that would pray with the team before games.  He was the one that made the clutch shots when they needed him.  If Kobe is Batman, then Derek is Robin.

I was sad to see Fisher traded, but I was disturbed to hear HOW he was traded.  I am a Laker fan.  The Lakers commitment to winning has been awesome.  I’d like to see the organization treat the people that make the organization with a ton of love and respect.

Enjoy the article below that I found on-line.  It sums up the feelings that many of us “Fisher Fans” have.


Virtually all my friends and fellow fans of the Los Angeles Lakers were content with this justification in response to my protest of the Lakers’ surprising decision to trade a much-loved 16-year-veteran player who had made a huge contribution to the team’s unity and success over the 13 years he’d been a member.

When I claimed it was unkind, disrespectful and disloyal, some just shrugged, satisfied that if it was a smart financial move to avoid or reduce the “luxury tax,” it was justified on its own.

Others believed (or wanted to believe) that the act was not a “salary dump,” but a justifiable move to improve the team, and that improving the team in a way that increases the chances of winning is the highest ethical obligation of management.

None were particularly concerned about the way the dismissal was done — without even a courtesy “heads up,”* nor thought that the impacts on Fisher, his family, friends, teammates, and fans were legitimate factors to hinder an otherwise smart business decision. After all, everyone knows pro basketball is just a business.

There are two things wrong with this reasoning.

First, the implication of the “it’s just a business” phrase is that business decisions should be judged only in terms of lawfulness and effectiveness. This is nonsense. There may be those who want to take the humanity factor out of business, but they can’t. When as a business action affects the lives of people it can and should be looked at through the lens of ethical and moral principles. Second, even if ordinary businesses have greater leeway to ignore certain ethical values, professional sports teams are not just like any other business; they have special characteristics that impose special moral obligations.

Let’s start with the notion that lawful business decisions are immune from moral judgment because the only thing that matters in business is making a profit. I respectfully suggest that this view — advanced by free market economists like Milton Friedman,** or later by the fictional character Gordon Gekko (who declared in the movie Wall Street, that “greed is good”),” — is a nonstarter.

I know of no prominent business leader asserting this position. In fact, in discussing the financial crises precipitated by legal but irresponsible mortgage practices, one of the most influential bank executives in the world, Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC, said:

Of course you need a profit, but it is a by-product, a hallmark of success. It is not the be all and end all. It is not the raision d’etre of business. What is the purpose of business? Friedman says the social responsibility of business is to make a profit but that will no longer do. Plain common sense will tell you that that cannot do.

An alternative to the Friedman/Gekko position is the view that businesses and business executives should acknowledge and live up to principles of corporate social responsibility, a concept grounded in the premise that business organizations have ethical obligations beyond obeying the law and satisfying the needs of owners and shareholders. These include a moral duty to look out for the welfare of a network of stakeholders: employees, suppliers and vendors, the community in which it operates, and society at large.

If a company terminated employees shortly before their pensions vest as a cost-cutting measure; closed a plant without consideration of its impact on employees, their families and the community; or knowingly polluted ground water, few people would give it the same free ride that basketball fans are giving the Lakers. (It’s no coincidence that the word “fan” is derived from the same root as fanatic).

Of course, each of these situations raise different and distinguishable issues, and my point is not to equate what the Lakers did to these examples, but to say that it is appropriate and important to evaluate business decisions in moral terms.

Derek Fisher was an employee, an exceptionally good employee, and in my view, he deserved, and the Lakers could have treated him with, greater respect, kindness and loyalty. What the Lakers did was lawful but it was also awful.

Sports is not just a business.

It is much more. I believe that team owners and executives have an even higher responsibility to demonstrate honor, fair play, decency, and integrity than regular businesses do.

In 1999, in an effort to articulate a framework of ethical principles and values for youth and amateur sports, a conclave of many of the most important people in sports issued this statement:

At its best, athletic competition can hold intrinsic value for our society. It is a symbol of a great ideal: pursuing victory with honor. The love of sports is deeply embedded in our national consciousness.

The values of millions of participants and spectators are directly and dramatically influenced by the values conveyed by organized sports. Thus, sports are a major social force that shapes the quality and character of the American culture.

Our views as to what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals are shaped by the dominant values conveyed in in sports and by high profile athletes. 

Those who influence these values have an enormous power to uplift and improve the nature and character of our society.

Yes, these statements were made in the context of amateur sports but, from an ethical perspective, I think they apply with even greater force to professional sports.

There’s no doubt that professional sports are a major social force that shapes the quality and character of the American culture, or that our views as to what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals are shaped by the dominant values conveyed in in sports.

So, what message does the act of blind-siding Fisher, his teammates, and fans send? It’s just a business; players are commodities, it’s either all about money or all about winning.

If the decision was just about money, it was unnecessary and unjustified.

The Lakers are one of the most successful and profitable franchises in sports. They owed Fisher more than his minimal contractual rights.

Derek Fisher is not just likable like Lamar Odom, or Luke Walton, or any number of other nice guys who were traded – yes, that is part of the business. He was a truly iconic leader who was material in winning championships and holding the team together through rough times.

He deserved to have some choices, some notice, some extra consideration — even to be untouchable from a trading perspective.

He deserved to serve out his term in dignity, even if he sat on the bench or was converted to coaching  while doing it. And you know what? The Lakers could have afforded that.

But what if the decision was it was about winning rather than money? What if the reason the Lakers traded Fisher was to improve their chances of getting another championship? Surely winning is a much more noble goal than increasing the take-home profits of the owners. Isn’t winning all that the City ofLos Angelesand Lakers fans everywhere want? Surely it’s ethical to do whatever you have to do to win.

Really? So winning really is everything?

To be sure, lots of people put winning above all else and, therefore will tolerate, even applaud any action that improves their chances of satisfying their hunger for championships.

Well, I’m a huge Laker fan, a season ticket holder. I go to almost every game, and I feel good when they win and bad when they don’t. But I also have come to care about the players. I care if they get hurt, not only because it is a competitive disadvantage, but because they are people who have inspired and entertained me. I owe them something for that – and so do the Lakers.

No, winning isn’t everything.

Honor is.

 – M Josephson


Leadership By Example

There are 2 kinds of leaders.  There are “William Wallace Leaders” and then there are “Longshanks Leaders”.

We respect and follow leaders that drive their teams from the front.  Leading from a white, ivory tower causes a disconnect between the leader and the team.  We rally behind people that we respect and feel a connection to.  People that set high standards for themselves in turn raise the bars for others around them.  Others are inspired to expect more of themselves.  Look what happened to Roger Bannister in 1954.

The medical field thought that it was impossible for any human being to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.  They said that a person’s heart would explode at that kind of pace.  No one pushed these limits until bannister broke the 4 minute mile.

What happened next?  The new standard was set, and today there are athletes in high schools that pass that mark.

Here is a story that I found on-line that describes what leadership by example really looks like.  Enjoy!

Mark Gibson, a former gymnastics coach who worked with many elite athletes, tells a wonderful story about a 15-year-old girl whose work ethic and attitude brought out the best in everyone. Cindy wasn’t a great gymnast, but when she was in the gym everyone complained less, worked harder, and, not surprisingly, achieved more.

Cindy was such a powerful motivator because she was blind. When it was her turn to do the vault, her mom would run along side her telling her how close she was to the vault. When her mom said, “Vault!” Cindy would reach out and jump – trusting her mother and herself.

Cindy loved the sport and kept improving because she and her mom refused to be defeated by her disability.

Mark called her the most important member of the team, not because of her athletic ability, but because of her heart and because she demonstrated a standard of fortitude and courage that inspired others to get more out of themselves. Everyone who watched her strive to be the best she could be realized how much more they could be.

This is leadership – leadership by example – and we see this sort of leadership not only in sports but in families and in the workplace. Often the most important members of the team are not the smartest, most skilled, or most powerful. Their power is in their attitude and their ability to energize and encourage others with their optimism, enthusiasm, and determination.

People who know how to get the best out of themselves get the best out of others.

Team SWAG and The 2012 Dodgeball Charity Event


In 2011, Team TAG started its initiative to raise money for Operation Smile and sponsor a mission trip to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.  We asked the Boys & Girls Club of Venice if we could set up a dodgeball tournament in their gymnasium, charge teams $100 entry fees to join, come up with some creative prizes, and split the revenues to raise money for 2 great causes (Op Smile and B&G Club).

We received an enthusiastic “Yes”, and we were off to the races.

After raising around $1500 in 2011 for the 2 great charities through a competitive dodgeball tournament, we entered 2012 looking to repeat history.  The coveted Surf Board Trophy was up for grabs this year.

Team SWAG entered the 2012 tournament confidently.  As we made our way to the finals, we noticed that Team Shark Attack looked a little buff.  In a hard fought battle in the finals, Team Shark Attack prevailed.  We felt better after the loss when we learned that they were all fitness trainers from Los Angeles.

At the end of the day, everyone wins when charity events are put together.  Another $1000 was raised for the Club, and everyone had a great time.

Team TAG (or in this tournament we were known as Team SWAG) feels compelled to take our skill set, our great staff, and our creativity to do our part to help our community and people in need from around the world.  We believe that success and significance need to be in the same equation.  One without the other is incomplete in the world of today’s business.

Thank you Team SWAG volunteers for your tireless efforts to serve.  Enjoy the video of one of our newest Team SWAGgers – Richard Turner.