Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sports Analogy Week, Day 4: Finishing

A basketball player is said to be a "finisher" if he/she reliably scores two points or gets fouled when going to the basket.

To define this term by counter-example, let me present Charles Smith. From Bridgeport, Connecticut, he played college basketball at Pittsburgh and was chosen third in the 1988 NBA Draft. Smith was tall and a good rebounder. But he was an awful finisher. When he played for my team, the Knicks, there were countless times when Smith found himself under the basket with the ball in his hands, and it seemed as if someone would block his shot 75% of the time. His Wikipedia entry states:

As a member of the Knicks, Smith is infamous for missing four consecutive shots directly under the basket as he attempted to tie Game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals against the Chicago Bulls. After taking a 2-0 lead in the series, the Knicks lost Games 3 and 4 in Chicago. With a chance to take a 3-2 series lead, Smith's attempts were hampered by Michael Jordan, Horace Grant, and Scottie Pippen in the final seconds, becoming one of the most notorious moments in Knicks history.

Charles Smith just couldn't finish. By contrast, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs is a tiny guy by NBA standards, yet he finds a way to get the ball into the basket from in close despite the tall trees around him. Tony Parker is a finisher.

Finishing is just as important in business as on the basketball court. Many, many people are good at the start of a project, when everything is just words on the white board and nothing is at stake. Much harder is the end of a project, when people are tired, customers cranky, flaws apparent, and yet, somehow, certain people find the fortitude to see the project through to the end.

So, ask yourself. At work, are you Tony Parker? Or are you Charles Smith?

(Photo: Tony Parker finishing, by Half Crazy Girl via flickr creative commons)