6 Leadership Lessons Learned From Nick Collison

If you live outside of Kansas or Oklahoma you may not know Nick Collison, but you should. Around Oklahoma, Sir Collison is known as a bit of a Bill Brasky…an eight-foot, two-ton beast man who can palm a medicine ball. He is the back-up power forward for the OKC Thunder, and my favorite professional athlete. I may even have a Bucket List item completely devoted to him:

Ryan Eller

A couple of years ago my personal assistant, Jerrod Murr, scored two playoff tickets to see the Thunder play the Memphis Grizzlies. We literally set on the very top row of the arena as we witnessed Nick Collison single handily beat the Grizzlies. He didn’t start or finish the game, he didn’t lead any statistical category, and he didn’t even really have one dynamic play that won the game, but boy did he entertain. When he fouled out of the game late in the fourth quarter, every fan in the arena and every Thunder player on the bench went nuts for his outstanding play. It was at this game that I realized we could all learn a few leadership lessons from Nick Collison.

1. He Isn’t Scared to Set a Screen

Speaking of the small things, Collison sets the best screens in the NBA. ESPN and other media outlets consistently rank him as one of the best pick and roll players in the league, and pretty much his only highlight video on YouTube is of him setting screens:

To be the best in the NBA at setting screens, you must be selfless. You don’t have the ball, you aren’t going to score, and you are being a team-player. The whole point of the screen is to set up another player to be successful. If you want to be a leader on your team, you must constantly be setting your other teammates up to succeed. You do this by actively standing in the way of the people or things that are trying to hold other players back.

2. The Plus/Minus Factor

There is a new and popular stat in the NBA called the Plus/Minus. Plus/minus looks at a team’s point differential when a player is on the floor compared with when he’s not. This stat is an excellent way to judge not only a player’s ability, but the so-called “intangibles” of the athlete. Nick Collison’s plus/minus is always off of the chart positive. He consistently adds value when he is on the court, even though he doesn’t fill up the box score. He does all of the little things right, and the team benefits.

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How is your plus/minus with your team? Are more things accomplished when you are around, or do people feel more comfortable without your presence? Like Collison, if you want to have a positive plus/minus, you must do all of the small things to make your team successful.

3. He Gives it 110%

There is no more overused cliché in sports than “Giving it 110%,” but there is no better way to describe Nick Collison. The man hustles every single second he is on the court. I think he frustrates other team’s players because he never quits. If my daughter someday wants to play basketball, I am going to pull out the Nick Collison videos and show her how it should be done.


You may not be the best player on your team, in your job, etc., but you should always give it 110%. Focus all of your energy on working as hard as possible when you are given the opportunity.

4. He Backs Down to No Man

Collison often plays as an undersized center, guarding players who are bigger, stronger, and faster than him. I have never seen him back down from a challenge, and he has never looked silly playing these better players. He is fearless, and his experience and fundamentals allow him to be a successful defender.


If you are looking to remain successful in an ever-challenging world, be fearless. Use your experience to out perform the opposition, and don’t forget the fundamentals that got you there in the first place.

6. The Man Can Take a Charge

Throughout Nick Collison’s eight year career, he has led or been near the top of the league in taking charging fouls. If you are unfamiliar with the basics of taking a charge, check out this video of Collison taking a fundamentally perfect charge on Tim Duncan:

Do you think it is fun to let a seven-foot tall man run straight into you while you stand perfectly still? I doubt it. However, if you want to be a leader, there are times when you must sacrifice it all for the betterment of the team. You should stand your ground and face your obstacles to make sure that your team will win the game.

I hope you are now as fond of Nick Collison as I am, and that you can take away a few leadership lessons from his superior play. Have you noticed anything about his leadership that I left off of this list? Is there another player in the NBA I should watch and learn from?


5 comments on “6 Leadership Lessons Learned From Nick Collison

  1. Pingback: The Cuba 20 Leadership Conference Part 2 | Ryan Eller

  2. Pingback: 20 camp prezi – I am humbled today. | Believing in a Better Way

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