Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Sidney Moncrief

In Roland Lazenby's book on Jerry West (not to be confused with West's own recent autobiography) the following appears.
In [West] taking on a personnel role with the Lakers in 1979, the Lakers had the first pick in the NBA draft and it came down sophomore Magic Johnson out of Michigan State and Arkansas' Sidney Moncrief...

    "West could easily see that Moncrief was destined to be an outstanding NBA guard. Johnson, on the other hand, was something of an odd duck..

    ...Johnson handled the ball in extraordinary but unorthodox fashion, but he was far from polished. Moncrief was a much safer pick...

    ...I thought he would be a very good player, West said of Johnson. I had no idea he would get to the level that he did. No idea...

    ...The experience reminded West of how much heart can factor into greatness...

    ...The things you could see, you loved. But you wondered where he [Johnson] would play in the NBA, how he would be able to do it. Through hard work, he just willed himself to take his game to another level. I [West] don't think anyone knew he had that kind of greatness in him. The athletic ability is the easiest thing to see, but it does not constitute what a great basketball player
No Magic, no Showtime.

Sometimes a bit of luck prevails although that seems too simplified because it discounts the time and effort put into investigating and grading out talent.

Talent evaluation is a partial measurement, a necessary but a limited exercise. Curiously, there are so many instances of teams struggling in measuring drive.

Switching sports, would love to see a show of hands of those GMs who would have chosen Ryan Leaf over Payton Manning in the 1988 NFL draft. The intangibles of Manning, heck even the tangibles, should have made that selection a no-brainer, hindsight or no hindsight. A simple personality test would have done the trick, likewise a three-hour stay talking to folks in Pullman.

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