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  • Writer's pictureJason Griffing

Leverage in the Overlooked

Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman is one of the greatest rebounders in the history of professional basketball. In the documentary, The Last Dance, he provides a fascinating glimpse into how he did it.

Rodman recounts late-night sessions at the gym where he'd have his friends shoot balls into the small hours of the morning. During these sessions, he would study the trajectory of every shot, noting exactly how the ball careened off the rim. Rodman also shares how he used to intensely study the shooting styles of his opponents, determining how much backspin they put on the ball and where he should position himself as a result. He also reportedly used to review nuances in the block-out tactics of the opposing players, finding subtle weaknesses in their technique he could exploit in order to consistently gain inside position.

As a child who grew up playing basketball in the era of Rodman, I was always perplexed by how he managed to haul down double-digit rebounds game in and game out. More than any other stat in basketball, rebounding appears to be heavily influenced by luck. After all, even relentless hustle and tremendous strength can't negate the fact that no one knows for sure which way the ball is going to bounce.

It turns out Rodman's rebounding prowess had nothing to do with luck. Nor was it merely the result of his renowned on-the-court hustle. It was all calculated.

In a league where his peers were focused on more glamourous aspects of the game—like scoring, assists, and blocked shots—Rodman relentlessly studied details that most other players overlooked. This is where he found his advantage.

Rodman's results show us that even in a chaotic environment where much is out of our control, there are always ways to give ourselves an edge over the competition. Often, these points of leverage lie in the mundane, ideas so subtle or unglamorous that others consistently overlook them:

Rodman built a Hall-of-Fame career by focusing on aspects of the game that most of his peers overlooked. By focusing on these details, he found leverage, a small statistical advantage that, when combined with his tireless work ethic, gave him a massive edge.

There's an invaluable lesson here for all of us, no matter our vocation. Our work is full of opportunities to find such leverage, opportunities waiting to be tapped by those willing to look for them. We can take a lesson from Rodman's playbook. While our competitors all scratch and claw for the next scoring title, we can make our impact under the rim, relentlessly sharpening aspects of our game that give us a truly unique performance advantage.

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