Thursday, June 26, 2003

The Culture: Rand on Sports

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News-Tribune suggests NBA teams should consider the wisdom of Ayn Rand before making their selections in tonight's amateur draft. Hughes specifically chastises NBA officials who fail to integrate properly, instead relying on the adage that a team must take the "best player available":
For the uninformed, the whole "best player available" mindset among NBA general managers came about because of the 1984 draft. Then, the Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon with the first overall pick. The Portland Trail Blazers already had Clyde Drexler playing shooting guard, so they drafted for need, choosing Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan. The Bulls, who didn't have anything on their roster, took Jordan, and the concept of drafting "the best player available" was born.

All because general managers don't want to be labeled as the guy who misses out on the next Michael Jordan.

In all honesty, though, I cover the league, and I don't even know who the Blazers' GM was back then.

I just think it is a foolish way to approach a draft, taking "the best player available." Imagine if the San Antonio Spurs, with the 28th pick, get on the clock and the best player available is some 6-foot-10 dude from the outer reaches of unincorporated Mongolia. Does it really make sense for the Spurs to draft a power forward who clearly is going to get about 3½ minutes a game playing behind two-time MVP Tim Duncan because he is the "best player available"?

Let's take this to another forum. Imagine an architect is putting together his vision of a house, and he takes the "best room available" for each section of the house. No matter that the best living room comes from Buckingham Palace, the best dining room comes from a Saudi Arabian castle and the best master bedroom comes from Wilt Chamberlain's old domicile.

Throw them all together and you get, well, a really big version of the manager's residence in a trailer home park.

Or, Graceland.

No, an architect puts together his vision with a plan. As Ayn Rand said of Howard Roark's sketches in "The Fountainhead": "It was as if the buildings had sprung from the earth and from some living force, complete, unalterably right. Not a line seemed superfluous, not a needed plane was missing. The structures were austere and simple, until one looked at them and realized what work, what complexity of method, what tension of thought had achieved the simplicity. No laws had dictated a single detail."

I can't say I've ever heard of the assembling of an NBA team described in such an eloquent manner, but the point is well taken: "No laws had dictated a single detail."

Indeed, the law of "best player available" should be rescinded.
Hughes makes a good argument, especially given the new "law" which governs the draft--pick the most hyped player available. Most NBA general managers are afraid to pass on an underqualified player who has "upside," a media euphemism for hype. In most businesses, you're expected to hire according to your needs, not according to the demands of outside reporters. No reason the NBA should be any different.

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