Which type of team are you? Football or basketball?

A football team consists of 54 specialists, each with a finely tuned set of skills and an equally specific role, ready to be called upon to perform their function to the most specific degree possible. It is coached from above, with detailed schematics and complicated formations, and the best players are determined by who can perform their role with the most exactitude. Quarterbacks execute a decision tree of reads, wide receivers run precise routes, kickers kick. It enables a large group of people to coordinate with precision, and when executed well (Patriots’ “Do Your Job” mantra) it enables a level of complication and replicability in strategy that can be very effective.

A basketball team consists of 12 generalists with complementary sets of skills. Each player has a specific role (most of the time, although trending less so), but is expected to make good decisions based on analyzing a rapidly changing and complex set of circumstances in the moment, and best applying their skills to the situation. It is coached through a combination of general skill development and strategic philosophy, the latter of which creates a default framework within which players can either execute or deviate at their discretion. So point guards run the offense, mostly, except when it’s advantageous for a forward to initiate. And centers rebound, except when the guard is closest to the ball, in which case he does. The best players are the ones who deliver results, regardless of their adherence to the offense, but the best teams are those who work as a single unit, supporting one another’s weaknesses as needed.

Leading teams in business can be done either way, but it’s really important to distinguish which approach you’re going for.

RIP Black Mamba. More than that, RIP Kobe Bryant

Sometimes I feel so significant. I’m on top of the world, and sure that I’m doing Important Things, or have Big Events ahead. When I’m significant the rest of the world fades away, and I’m all about me.

I’ve accomplished much through this type of singular focus, but I’ve missed a lot along the way. When I’m significant, my family, my health, everything else gets deprioritized. I don’t miss those things in the moment, as I’ve Important Things to do, but after those Things are done sometimes there’s a quiet, and in that quiet I see the cost of my significance. I see the preciousness of the people around me, the relationships, of Life. But too often I see these things only in retrospect, before inevitably getting caught up in my next significance.

Yesterday something awful happened. 9 people died horribly, including a hero from my childhood and his daughter.

This hero, to me, personified that singularity of focus that has gotten me so far, as his professional career was second to none. The Black Mamba. He was the inspiration for my late nights in the driveway, far beyond a reasonable hour because “somewhere, someone is still working, and someday, when you meet that person, they will beat you.” Mamba wouldn’t be beaten by anyone. Neither would I, but whatever sacrifices I made in the aim to succeed, I’m certain the Mamba’s were greater. He was a transcendent basketball player.

As I’ve grown older, the quiet gaps between my significance have grown larger, and I’ve been able to appreciate the awe-someness of Being, of connecting with what Is in the moment. It’s humbled me, put into perspective my drive to achieve, and I don’t want to imagine the possibility that I might have died before ever having found this peace. Before ever really connecting with the world.

I cried for the Mamba yesterday, for his family, Vanessa, his kids, and for the other 7 passengers on that helicopter. I cried for the little piece of my childhood that died along with them. I wasn’t the only one. It was a sad day. I can’t imagine what the families and friends of those people are facing today. I don’t want to. It’s inexplicably awful.

But I read Bill Platschke’s column in the LA Times, recalling a conversation the journalist had with Bryant recently, and within the overwhelming sadness a new part of me connected with my hero again, for the first time. No longer the Mamba, Kobe, in his retirement, seemed to have overcome his own significance, and found his own quiet.

The edge was gone. The arms were open. He urged acceptance of LeBron [passing him in career points scored]. He preached calm for Lakers fans. He said greatness wasn’t worth anything if you couldn’t share it.

Deep within the grief, I’m grateful the Mamba found his inner Kobe before he left us.

I’m sad. We are all sad. But I’m also committed, as I wake up today, to really paying attention, to really connecting, as it could all be over in a breath.