The Kentucky Wildcats lost, but look who they’ve become.
Another basketball season comes to a close far too early in March for Big Blue Nation.
It was a hard fought game with impressive play after impressive play – made buckets, three-pointers, electrifying dunks, hustle, strategy, and good old-fashioned hoops.
They lost, but the most impressive thing about this 2016-2017 Kentucky Wildcat team was the character they revealed down the stretch in their final collegiate game.
Expectations and Anticipation
D’Aron Fox, Malik Monk, and Bam Adebayo were Kentucky’s marquee Freshmen this year. Fox had 39 points in his last game, Monk scored 47 points the last time the Cats played North Carolina in a pre-holiday showcase in Las Vegas, and Bam had been a man child all year. The anticipation leading up to the game was incredible, and every fan watching, especially Cats fans, just knew the big three would have the game of their lives.
From the initial tip, things didn’t go the Cats’ way. Whether it was foul trouble, bad calls, unfortunate bounces, or just plain old bad luck, to say the Cats were met with adversity would be an understatement.
I had written the game off with about two minutes remaining. My beloved Cats were up five with “big Mo”, momentum, on their side. The tide shifted the other way as quickly as it came our way. With a text to my Dad and sister, I concluded the season was coming to a close.
But these young men weren’t finished. Bam kept battling, diving after loose balls, and sacrificing his body for his team. D’Aaron drains a three from the corner out of nowhere. Malik nails another three from the top of the key with two guys hanging all over him to tie the game with seconds remaining! What? Thirty seconds ago I had called the game, and thrown in the towel!
They didn’t give up. They didn’t quit. They fought through the adversity.
Every Wildcat player, from our veteran Seniors to more seasoned Juniors and Sophomores, to our superstar, nineteen-year old Freshmen, fought through one adverse situation after another.
As a fan, talking to my Mom today about the game, I sounded like a child, “the Cats got no calls! None! Our main guys were in foul trouble the entire first half, and officials missed a huge traveling call in the final seconds.” Just awful.
These young people are going to be rich in a matter of months as they go to the NBA, sign shoe deals, and make millions. It would be easy to just mail it in, and coast through March and the end of their “one and done” season, knowing millions await. However, in the midst of adversity in their final college game, they stepped up, leaned into their talents, skills, and passion for the game, their fans, for Coach Cal, and for each other.
Authenticity + Vulnerability = True Character
In doing so, they revealed character I’m not sure many knew they had. To see D’Aaron and Bam embracing each other, in tears, in a post-game interview, physically breaking down, heartbroken tells you who they really are. Their vulnerability, in that moment, reveals how much this really meant to them and how much they love each other.
Despite foul trouble and an off shooting night for Malik, he revealed his true character, as he fought through the adversity and still nailed a jumper to tie the game with seconds remaining.
Kentucky lost, but we all won.
What’s Really Attractive?
We won because today many of us love these Kentucky Wildcats more now than we did yesterday. They lost the game, but they reminded us all that winning really isn’t always what’s attractive. What’s really attractive is the character we reveal along the way, win or lose.
Authenticity, vulnerability, passion, and love are attractive. The 2017 Cats remind us to be real, vulnerable, and to love each other like brothers and sisters.
The same goes for you and me at work. At work we’re met with adversity as well. The boss disagrees with us, a staff member doesn’t quite perform, clients are unhappy, fellow coworkers are unhappy, gossip, finger pointing, blame, and on and on the “corporate adversity” goes.
Remember, the boss, your clients, and even your team won’t really care nor will they be impressed if you “win” the argument. What will be impressive is how you handle yourself in those heated moments.
It’s less about “winning” and all about “who you’re becoming”.
Lean into your skills, talents, and passion. But remember how you get to your destination and who you become along the way is more important than what you do – Win or Lose.
Thanks, to Coach Cal and the 2016-2017 Kentucky Wildcats for revealing their true character all season, and especially in the Elite 8. It’s safe to say these kids have become fine, young men in their journey as Wildcats.
Yet another lesson from ballgames we can apply in boardrooms in the midst of our corporate grind.
Have a great day.