Why the greatest basketball player ever wouldn't go one-on-one

I quoted Michael Jordan in my implementation book and the publisher came back and said we needed to say who Michael Jordan was if we were going to quote him. My dad said at the time “If you quoted Jesus Christ would they also want you to say who he was?”. 

I think that’s a nice illustration of how famous Michael Jordan is. I actually spent a year in Illinois in 94 -95 when Jordan and his Chicago Bulls were at the height of their power. (They won three championships in a row, missed one when Jordan turned his hand to baseball for a year, then won another three in a row when he came back.) It’s fair to say that his ability matched his fame. 

Magic Johnson was the second biggest name, and some clever promoter was trying to get a game of one-on-one between Magic and Jordan. It would have been huge, and there was big money on the line for what would have essentially been half an hour of fun. 

Jordan turned it down. Years later he explained why. Essentially for him there was not much upside and a huge downside. 

Magic had a reputation as the ultimate team player, and Jordan was considered the ultimate individual player. So one-on-one, everyone expected Jordan to win. And if he did, no big deal. 

However, if he lost, then everyone would be shocked and his brand would take a hit. He was on a hiding to nothing, as they say. 

Anytime you make a bet you want to limit the downside and have as big an upside as possible. 

For me that’s part of the beauty of launching multiple clusters in a thought leadership practice. 

Each cluster (each offer to market), if successful, has the potential to make over a million dollars over a decade. Big upside. 

But done right there is almost no downside. A cluster should be launched and tested spending almost no money. The downside is time and opportunity cost. 

The mathematician in me loves this strategy – make lots of bets with a big upside and limited downside and persist long enough for a few of them to come off.