Then there are the brand names, or the individuals who are known generally for one thing. That can be both good and bad, which defines the challenge otherwise known as rebranding, or moving from one position to another. Rebranding is the process; if managed properly, transformation can be the outcome. The process can be extremely tense and difficult especially if the former position is firmly etched in minds and hearts. Think Michael Milken, the late Chuck Colson and Magic Johnson on the positive side; Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney and the latest lion to stir, Al Gore, on the negative side.
|Christian Laettner: "Perception is not always reality."|
Courtesy Bleacher Report
In the case of former Duke basketball star Christian Laettner, the subject of a new "30 on 30" ESPN special, the tension was between great performance on the court and how he carried himself off the court. This tension defined his brand against the backdrop of Duke basketball, which also had a love/hate dynamic that characterizes all winning teams. Laettner's reputation wasn't always pretty as former teammates attested to in the special titled, "I Hate Christian Laettner." The former Duke star still holds the record for most points scored during March Madness, the annual rite otherwise known as college basketball's playoff (another major branding feat, but that's another story.)
Laettner is captured on old footage stepping on another player during a heated contest against Kentucky in 1992. Anyone else would have been thrown out of the game, according to analyst and fellow Duke alum, Jay Bilas, but because he was "Christian Laettner," it didn't happen. The 6' 11' center/forward would go on to make one of the most memorably shots in NCAA history. Both images, which capture the tension, will be stored and replayed forever.
What stood out at a deeper level was a more subtle point on leadership. Coach K, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history, was made better by Laettner, a blue collar and gutsy player from Buffalo, New York, who only K could relate to. According to Coach K's wife, the relationship helped raise her husband's game and the program's championship status. And that's what will be most valued over time. Coach makes players; players make coach. It's difficult to argue with four straight Final Fours and two national championships. Winning defines dynasty; valuable contributions create lasting legacies. The debate over whether you have to be an obnoxious you know what to achieve the highest levels of performance will have to wait for another crowd to argue.
And that may be the whole point: Performance ultimately determines brand whether you're liked, loved or hated by those who may not even know you. Or at least real brand over time. Controversy or drama never hurts. Leaving out the phony exceptions for now; time has a way of revealing the pretenders vs. performers.
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