A Workish guide to basketball

With the Toronto Raptors in their first-ever NBA Finals, basketball is dominating small talk in offices across Canada. From proclaiming “Let’s Go Raptors” on email signatures, to analyzing turnover percentages while everyone waits for Ken to join the conference call, talking the talk in Raptors speak has become mission critical.

But for the late-in-the-game fair weather fans (myself included), keeping pace with jargon can be tough. While we were brushing-up on our Leafs knowledge for a sure-fire playoff run, our hipper, savvier colleagues were riding the Kawhi wave onto Relevance Beach. And while the Leafs are off golfing, we’re left holding the bag… so to speak.

We know the basics: The Raptors were founded in 1995. Their mascot wears the number 95. And judging by the influx of RFPs for brand activations around Jurassic Park, they’re a guaranteed hit with audiences.

Accordingly, here’s a Workish guide to essential basketball terminology, with practical business examples to assist you in achieving a triple double while avoiding a technical foul.

Term: Traveling
Definition: When a player takes more than two steps without dribbling the ball, traveling occurs. Bonus fact: the only time traveling is legal is during the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest, or anytime Kobe was on the court. (My cubicle partner said that back in the mid-2000s; I don’t really get the reference, but thought it might fit.) Best used in sales when someone is trying to bend the rules. Usage: “Dan! Great game last night. Reminds me of that McGinnis deal you’re chasing in Vancouver: don’t forget to socialize the project with legal, or they’re gonna charge you with traveling. Dan, that was a joke, and we think you’re doing a great job. But seriously, tell legal.”

Term: 3-Second Violation
Definition: Also known as a “lane violation,” the 3-second rule is called when an offensive player spends more than three seconds in the key (the painted box at each end of the court). Kind-of like when someone on your account team lingers after an important meeting in a client’s office. Usage: “Thanks again for your time, everyone. We’ll be in touch on next steps regarding planning and distribution. While the team calls an Uber, I’m just gonna dash back in and grab Ken before the ref calls a 3-second violation.”

Term: Beat the Buzzer
Definition: The remaining time in a quarter is running out. A player shoots before the buzzer goes off. The ball goes in. The crowd goes wild. Draws parallels with reaching last-minute production deadlines.
Usage: “Let’s all hear it for Carol, who beat the buzzer by finishing that microsite copy at the 11th hour! As you know, at times like this, I like to share motivational quotes. I just listened to that Jack Welch audiobook, but unfortunately can’t remember any good nuggets ’cause my kids were watching Lego Batman in the back seat on a drive to Collingwood. I think he mostly talked about running GE. Anyway, great job, Carol.”

Term: Free Throw*
Definition: Free throws are attempts to score extra points after a foul without any defensive interference. Each successful free throw is worth one point. If you play basketball, you never want to miss a free throw. If you’re in sales, you never want to miss a chance to explore a business opportunity with a previous member of your extended family. Usage: “Thanks to Dan for booking the client meeting with LabCoat Research. Full disclosure, my ex-aunt is SVP of marketing at LabCoat, but the divorce was amicable, so we’re hoping this one’s a bit of a free throw.”
*Note: Interchangeable with the term “Lay-Up.”

Term: James Naismith
Definition: A native of Ontario, James Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at the age of 30. Later in life, he moved to the U.S. and founded the University of Kansas’ famed basketball program. For the working world, this one’s a deep cut. Use only when Ontario companies open new offices in Kansas, which up to 2019 has been exactly never. Usage: “We’re proud to announce that Ontario-based TechCommCo, winner of the prestigious Ward Award, will be opening a new office in Kansas. TechCommCo will offer the same premium products with exceptional client service. I guess you could call us the James Naismith of AI Solutions. Right? Guy who invented basketball? Nothin’? Never mind. Let’s hit slide 52, then I thiiiiiiiink we have bagels…”

Term: Jimmy Chitwood
Definition: Basketball prodigy Jimmy Chitwood is a character in the 1986 basketball movie Hoosiers, who rejoins a small-town high school team (coached by Gene Hackman and the bad guy from Waterworld) to win the state championship. Relates to a recruiter looking for top talent. Usage: “UNICORN SEARCH: While delivering consultative services to clients in all industries, ProPro is looking for a unicorn executive with experience in driving new business while leading best practices across all product lines. Are you our Jimmy Chitwood? Email your cover letter, resume, and field goal percentages to unicorn@propro.ca.”

Term: Drake
Definition: We’re too superstitious to write about this one. Just Google “the Drake Curse.” Usage: Nobody’s taking any chances on an NBA win, so if a co-worker mentions Drake, play it safe and reference his early career in television: “They should bring all of Degrassi on the road…” Then move on and act like nothing was ever said.

Sandy Marshall (@MarshallSandy) is the creator of Workish (@Workishwork) and a Partner at Norman Howard. He’s also a producer, television actor, and business speaker.