Imitating – or copying – the leader and the need for more regulation in the NBA

Posted on October 6, 2010 by


In economics we teach that success leads to imitation, or copying.  With that in mind….

 Henry Abbott and TrueHoop – as Wikio notes – has the number one basketball blog (and I think the margin of victory is quite large).  In an effort to close the gap, here is an “imitation” of what Henry had to say today (okay, I am just copying):

 Poor Kobe Bryant.

Even though he has proved himself to be the emotional and intelligent leader of the NBA’s best team over the last two seasons, and one with deep connections and good working relationships with the likes of Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson, Bryant’s evidently still an icon of selfishness and gunning.

In that context, he comes up in a fascinating essay about what’s wrong with Wall Street.

On The New York Times’ website, professor J.M. Bernstein explains that Wall Street bankers should be in favor of strong and smart regulation. Usually the regulators are seen as being obstacles to Wall Street’s freedom to profit. Citing philosopher Georg W.F. Hegel, Bernstein instead makes the case that good regulation is the precise thing that gives banking meaning and value.

To illustrate his point, Bernstein summons the image of a selfish Bryant, who plays the role of a greedy banker in this analogy.

Actions are elements of practices, and practices give individual actions their meaning. Without the game of basketball, there are just balls flying around with no purpose. The rules of the game give the action of putting the ball through the net the meaning of scoring, where scoring is something one does for the sake of the team. A star player can forget all this and pursue personal glory, his private self-interest. But if that star — say, Kobe Bryant — forgets his team in the process, he may, in the short term, get rich, but the team will lose. Only by playing his role on the team, by having an L.A. Laker interest as well as a Kobe Bryant interest, can he succeed. I guess in this analogy, Phil Jackson has the role of “the regulator.”
The series of events leading up to near economic collapse have shown Wall Street traders and bankers to be essentially knights of self-interest — bad Kobe Bryants.

Bernstein proposed regulation that would reward bankers for making good investments — no big bonuses for investments that lose money. I guess that’s a little like paying a player for wins, instead of points scored (which is still the biggest factor in determining NBA salaries). It’s a reform that sure seems to make sense for Wall Street, and maybe for basketball, too.

Carrying the analogy one step further… given the contracts that Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson received – and the contract that Carmelo Anthony is refusing to sign – basketball is still an “unregulated market.”  Players have an incentive to shoot as much as possible, even at the cost of team victories.  Perhaps if the coaches were better regulators…

– DJ