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Two stars learn from each other

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

During their first game together on October 12, 1979, legendary star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and dazzling rookie Magic Johnson weren’t sure what to expect from each other. But they found out soon enough.

Kareem made the game-winning shot in the final seconds, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a hard-fought victory. It was the first game of a storied season in which they would win the NBA championship.

After Kareem’s dramatic buzzer-beating skyhook, Magic leaped into Kareem’s arms and hugged him. It’s the kind of emotional reaction that players usually exhibit when they become champions.

Stunned, Kareem initially didn’t know what to think. During his career, he was mostly a subdued presence on the basketball court.

When they reached the locker room, Kareem turned to Magic and said, “Look, we’ve got 81 more games to play.”

The veteran was sending a message to the newcomer: You need to manage your emotions over the long haul. Kareem knew from experience that if you undergo too many highs and lows throughout the season, it could take a heavy toll.

Yet, Kareem also realized he could benefit from Magic’s exuberance.

“From him, in that same moment, I learned that it’s OK to have some fun and enjoy things as you’re having the experience,” Kareem recalls. “You can’t be so totally about brass tacks that you don’t enjoy the smaller successes that, of course, lead to bigger and better things.”

— Adapted from “Life’s Work: An Interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Alison Beard, www.hbr.org.

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