Points or Assists?

Quick basketball stat question: You have the chance to remake your basketball record. You can change your stat sheet to averaging 20 points or 20 assists. Which will you choose? The answer depends on your objective.

If your objective is fame and recognition, you should definitely choose points. League leaders in scoring are more famous than league leaders in assists. Even in history, many basketball fans know who scored the most points in a single NBA game (Wilt Chamberlain, 100 points) but not many know who made the most assists (Scott Skiles, 30 assists). (I had to google it. And who is Scott Skiles?)

Oh... That's Scott Skiles.
Oh… That’s Scott Skiles.

But if your objective is winning, you might want to reconsider. Each point equals 1 point. (duh) But each assist equals at least 2 points, because an assist is a pass that leads to a field goal. So while 20 points equal 20 points, 20 assists mean 40-60 points. (Some could be three-point shots.)

In a study done of winning basketball teams, researchers found that there was no one great position that made a team win. But they did have to pass well, because good passing leads to great looks, and higher percentage shots. So it doesn’t matter who scores, as long as the team wins. In the NBA, the team with the higher assists by the end of the game, won 72% of the time.

Some of my favorite playmakers. Who are yours?
Some of my favorite playmakers. Who are yours?

So choosing points means you are more famous. Choosing assists means your team has a higher chance of winning. The question is, what’s more important to you?

Here’s the application to us: anywhere you work or lead, you have a chance to focus on points or assists. Points are things you do that contribute directly to the output of the team and are attributed to you. You finished the project. Your name is on the proposal. Or if you’re a mayor in some parts of Manila, your name is on every wall, basketball court, and public works project. You get the commendation from the boss, because you made sure everyone knows that you’re the one responsible.

Great leaders make assists so others can score. When we train leaders, when we give opportunities for others to lead, when we are unselfish and always looking to give others credit – these are assists. When we support the projects of our teammates even though we won’t get any recognition for it, that’s an assist. When we work hard and help inter-departmentally, even though it’s not strictly within our jurisdiction, that’s an assist. When we give other people an opportunity to shine and showcase their talents for the good of the team, that’s an assist.


A person who focuses on scoring might get famous. The team who focuses on assists will win games. What’s more important to you?


Para sa mga pilosopo: Yes, I’m aware that the total point value of Chamberlain’s 100 point game is higher than Skiles’ 30 assists. But how often will you score 100 points? And how many clichéd games have we seen where one player goes ballistic with the points, but still loses the game?

If it’s possible to do both – excel in points and assists then definitely do both! Also, someone eventually has to shoot. There’s no point passing the ball if no one will  take the shot. In fact, it only becomes an assist if it leads to someone making the shot. So I’m not against scoring points since that leads to winning games. But when the attitude is I have to score all the points, that’s bad for the team.

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