Sunday, April 13, 2014

Championship-Caliber Loyalty: A Building Block of Success

Dan LeBatard eloquently substantiated what Heat fans have known for quite awhile. The organization is predicated on loyalty, which has cultivated a culture of success. You can check out LeBatard's countless examples of the how the Heat organization takes care of its own or you can just think of the fact that they paid Joel Anthony--the hardest worker on the team by far--the fifth highest salary on the team after LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and Mike Miller back in that historic free-agent haul. Joel Anthony doesn't even make the active roster on almost any other NBA team. In some sense, it's safe to say that Joel Anthony was the crucial ingredient in the Heat's championship recipe (by only some of his own doing).

I wrote recently about Riley and Arison's loyalty to Haslem, often called the heart and soul of the Heat, in not trading him to the Nuggets a couple years ago and more recently, not trading him to the tanking Sixers for Evan Turner's expiring contract. Any other team would have jumped at the opportunity to trade the aging, undersized veteran forward/center for a potentially rising star who could add critical wing depth for a playoff run. Not the Heat, though. Not only do they immediately benefit from Haslem's resurgence (see below for the type of defense that can be expected of him), but more importantly, they benefit from the impending re-signing of the Big Three. Riley's "paying it forward' will pay dividends with more championships, and more crucial free agents looking to be a part of the Miami Heat family.

For all the hate that's spewed at the Heat, you can't knock the fact that they are hands-down the most loyal NBA franchise, possibly the most loyal franchise in sports altogether. And, the guys that are there now are an integral part of that ethic of loyalty, team-work, and family that started from the top-down. When it comes time for a role player to make a choice on where they want to be next season, or for a star like Wade to choose where he wants to spend the waning years of his career, Riley's history of loyalty and the culture he's built in Miami will be almost as much of an attraction as the team's championship pedigree. 

The man even showed loyalty to Michael Jordan, hanging his jersey in the rafters of American Airlines Arena. He recognizes greatness and pays homage to it. He recognizes hard-work and rewards it. And he'll continue to accrue more rings than he can fit on any of his digits.

This is a philosophy that extends far beyond basketball, and is the lynchpin of dozens of successful companies. That's why Arison is on board to give Riley full control of his "company" culture.