Today’s episode is a special one, in a format that may turn into a series. It is a conversation between Ravi Gupta and Shane Battier. Ravi is a partner at Sequoia, one of our most popular past guests, and a good friend. Shane is Ravi’s friend, and one of the most successful basketball players ever, having won championships and awards at the high school, college, and NBA levels.
I spent 10 years as a purely quantitative investor, so naturally I was obsessed with data in sports. When I was meeting with prospective investors, Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball—which chronicled the data analytics revolution in baseball—was my go-to analogy to explain what I did… “Moneyball, but for investing.” I used that line for years.
I’ve learned firsthand that it’s wise to follow your curiosity, no matter how strange or different it may be. The podcast is my curiosity tour, and years ago it led me to Sam Hinkie—who is himself on the Mt. Rushmore of analytics in sports. Sam introduced me to Ravi. Then Ravi sent me Michael Lewis’ article written about Shane called “The No Stats All-Star.” I highly recommend you read it.
All this serendipity around friends, data, investing, and sports gave me an idea: why not ask Ravi to interview Shane? There were so many valuable ideas in the Michael Lewis article, I thought we’d get even more in a real taped interview with someone that knew Shane well, and that’s exactly what happened. Ravi likes the idea of playing for the front of the jersey, not the back. It is hard to imagine someone that lived that more than Shane. Shane shares his story, lessons learned from various coaches, and using data as an advantage. He also explains the four kinds of teams he’s encountered, which I found simple, and memorable. I hope you enjoy this great conversation, and if you have ideas for other iconic duos we could bring on in a similar format, DM me on Twitter. Thanks to Ravi and Shane for kicking off Thanksgiving week for us all.
For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content, check out the episode page here.
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Past guests include Tobi Lutke, Kevin Systrom, Mike Krieger, John Collison, Kat Cole, Marc Andreessen, Matthew Ball, Bill Gurley, Anu Hariharan, Ben Thompson, and many more.
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[00:03:53] - [First question] - What people measure in basketball, what matters when it comes to winning, and why he was called a replaceable cog in the No-Stats All-Star
[00:08:38] - Some of the plays that impact the overall points during a basketball game
[00:11:44] - The role that preparation and understanding game analytics plays in the ability to do something different and succeed at it
[00:14:33] - The power of curiosity and obsessing over details
[00:16:16] - Embracing his role and how being a role player applies to life outside of the court
[00:20:47] - Where his obsession for winning and being a good team mate comes from
[00:23:23] - Some of the things great leaders and coaches did to inspire him
[00:28:51] - An overview of the four types of teams and fundamental aspects of them
[00:34:50] - What a person can do to elevate their team and make it a winning one
[00:37:43] - Antifragility and the letter Shane wrote for Ravi when Amazon bought Whole Foods
[00:41:08] - Riding the thin line between winning a championship and being irrelevant
[00:44:56] - How to get everyone rallied around a long-term shared mission effectively
[00:46:48] - Finding a No-Stats All-Star in a company and what to look for in one
[00:52:34] - The kindest thing anyone has ever done for him