Michael Jordan, Malcolm Gladwell and Connectors in the NBA

In The Tipping Point, author Malcolm Gladwell makes the argument that social epidemics are only carried out thanks to a special personality type known as “connectors.”

Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors. – Gladwell, The Tipping Point

Connectors, Gladwell suggests, first and foremost know lots of people. By simply having the ability to maintain relationships— from best friends for life to simple acquaintances — connectors influence and unite the masses across professional, social and economic circles through their extroverted personalities.

Michael Jordan has The Tipping Point on his bookshelf.

In a show of rare candidness from the Charlotte Bobcats owner, Jordan discussed his team’s growth, maintaining accountability and the reason for choosing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in last summer’s NBA draft in a Q&A session with the Charlotte Observer.

From the The Charlotte Observer: Why did you choose Michael Kidd-Gilchrist over the other possibilities at No.2?

A: What I saw in the kid was his potential. He’s a very versatile guy. His demeanor, his motivation for playing the game was something I could identify with. He loves to play. He plays hard. Success has been part of his life in terms of a basketball scenario. And if he succeeds as everybody expects him to, he’s going to be a connector. He can connect a lot of different talent together and be successful.

I’ve said this in the past and I say it loosely obviously: He reminds me of Scottie Pippen because he can do so many different facets and he can connect a lot of different, talented players. Whereas if we looked at other guys – I looked at [Thomas] Robinson, who I think is going to be a great player – but can he connect? Can he connect the different pieces?

That’s where I saw MKG as being more valuable to this organization because if we can find those types of players that can make everybody else better and touch it with the ball, with the pass, with his defense, with his voice, with his energy, all those types of things, that’s a quick road to success.

When you look at the way our league is, you have some players who are capable of doing this. Now I’m only going to say this as recognizing and identifying guys: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, all these guys play multiple positions, they know how to involve everyone, they know how to lead, they have the work ethic, this is what I saw about this kid that can be very beneficial to this organization, especially where we are and where we’re trying to go.

Maybe Andre Drummond has the higher ceiling. Perhaps Dion Waiters possesses the most NBA-ready game and Bradley Beal, the smoothest jumpshot. The Bobcats, who set a record for lowest winning percentage in NBA history, needed all three skill-sets plus a guy who can grind. In MKG, Jordan argues, the Bobcats obtained a player who can fluctuate within each skill-set, and make the guys around him with more limited roles, expand their games.

In the Q&A, Jordan is quite conscious of his team’s perception around the league and it seems as though he is working his ass off to get, as he put it “the house in order” i.e. cap space, stockpiling picks, taking advantage of the new CBA rules. He still harkens back to his playing days when assessing thenewest generation which can get kind of dicey considering the person making the assessment is the G.O.A.T.

Still, I loved getting inside Jordan’s head and his play to bring in a “connector” to a team that desperately needed one.

So who are the connectors in the NBA as defined by Jordan? — play multiple positions, they know how to involve everyone, they know how to lead, they have the work ethic.

Here’s my incredibly unscientific list:
*I’ve added the names of guys who need to become connectors on teams without one*

EAST

Boston – Kevin Garnett
Philadelphia – None (Andrew Bynum)
Brooklyn – Deron Williams
New York – None (Carmelo Anthony)
Toronto – None (Kyle Lowry)
Chicago – Derrick Rose
Cleveland – None (Kyrie Irving)
Detroit – None (Brandon Knight, maybe?)
Indiana – Paul George
Milwaukee – None (Brandon Jennings)
Atlanta – Al Horford
Charlotte – MKG
Miami – LeBron James
Orlando – None (Aaron Afflalo)

Washington – John Wall

WEST

Golden State – Andrew Bogut
LAC – Chris Paul
LAL – Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol/Steve Nash
Phoenix – None (Goran Dragic)
Sacramento – None (DeMarcus Cousins…won’t happen so Tyreke Evans, which probably won’t happen)
Dallas – Dirk Nowitzki
Houston – James Harden
Memphis – None (Rudy Gay)
New Orleans – Anthony Davis
San Antonio – Tim Duncan
Denver – Andre Iguodala
Minnesota – Kevin Love
OKC – Kevin Durant
Portland – None (Damian Lillard)
Utah – None (Paul Millsap)

What are your thoughts on connectors? Does every team have one or is the term reserved only for a select few like “superstar”?

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