It’s a popular misconception that people only became interested in basketball in Canada when Vince Carter began lighting up the court for the Toronto Raptors in his rookie season 21 years ago.
Sherman Hamilton grew up in Malton, Ontario during the 1970’s and 80’s and had hoop dreams from an early age. He parlayed skill and drive as a point guard to an athletic scholarship at Virginia Commonwealth University. After the NCAA, he joined the professional ranks in Europe and also played with the national basketball team where he represented Canada at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
After his playing career ended, Hamilton began working as an NBA broadcaster. He has become familiar to millions for his game analysis, especially during the Toronto Raptors captivating run to the 2019 NBA Title. Prior to his 17 th season of giving Canadian viewers insight into the game he and so many across the country love, Hamilton took time out to break down his perspectives on teamwork and leadership with Bridgit.
Bridgit: What value do you place on mentorship in achieving your goals?
Sherman Hamilton: There was a friend of mine who I ended up playing on the national team with named Bobby Allen. He played in the area I grew up in and went away on scholarship. When he came back, I got to talk to him all the time and pick his brain. For me the information was simple. I just needed to know how I get there and when I got there, what I needed to expect.
I’ve never been a big proponent of somebody telling you what to do, but I’ve always been a big proponent of finding information. Go and source people and find out what they are about and if you can, extract information from them, utilize their knowledge and experience and then thank them for it.
It’s important because information is the key and a lot of times, we find that people are just lacking information in order to achieve their goals and they don’t know how to pursue that information. When people ask me about my career and what I’ve been able to do and how did I get to this point, I tell them, I’ve talked to everybody and anybody I could in terms of what I was trying to accomplish.
When I started doing TV, I hunted down Jack Armstrong and Leo Rautins, I sat in while they were doing shows and I continued to hang around studios just to extract information from different producers. Mentorship is a big thing and I don’t think it has to come from one person, I think information can come from many people who can give you different perspectives.
Bridgit: When you played for the national team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Steve Nash was the biggest star on the team, can you describe his leadership style during those games?
SH: We had been playing with Steve for years, so that group of guys had known each other, and we knew who Steve was, we saw him when he wasn’t in the NBA, when he was just a guy trying to make a team.
We saw his progression, so he immediately got respect for his work ethic and what we knew about him as a human being and his approach to getting better. Because he played at such a high level (the NBA) and could do so much on the floor, you automatically tip your hat to that leadership.
Steve had a way of communicating, he had a good pulse on the guys that were on the team. He was very balanced in his approach, the best thing he did as a leader was off the court. He didn’t big time it, he didn’t say, “I need to stay in the 5-Star Hotels,” and “I need to fly private or first class.”
He was with us, coach, economy, the same hotels, the same meals. He didn’t big time us.
To see him on his level, just to be one of us and continue to compete and act like we were all on the same level, was the biggest thing he could have done in terms of leadership for the group.
Bridgit: You have also worked as an assistant coach for the national team, how do you manage egos to get the best result for the team?
SH: We all have egos; what we think we are worth and what we think we deserve and sometimes it doesn’t meet up with what other people think. As a coach, it’s the ability to get the players to understand the value in their role, regardless of what perception seems to be.
At the highest levels, every player can do more. When we played on the national team, all of us could have done more, but we all had to play a role in order to make that 12-man unit work, so it’s sacrifice. Yes, we played overseas where some guys put up 20 points per game, well on this team that’s not your role. Can you defend? Can you rebound? Can you move the ball? Can you set screens? All those things come in to play. That’s also when ego comes in, when people don’t think their skills are being utilized correctly, but part of the process is to understand how your skills fit into the team concept.
Bridgit: Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri promoted from within when he replaced Dwane Casey with Nick Nurse as head coach in the 2018 offseason. What are the advantages to this act as opposed to parachuting someone in who may have a higher profile?
SH: It’s the understanding from the players that this person will work, and you have seen it and respect it. You can parachute a big name in, but that big name may not get the respect of that group.
In a corporation, it may be the same thing. If you are going to promote from within, make sure it’s somebody people have seen grow, seen the work ethic, respect the person, respect how they approach the business and feel confident that this person can take it to the next level and advance the cause of the company.
Bridgit: Aside from changing the coach, Masai made an even bolder move last offseason by trading away DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. It was a difficult trade on many levels and also a massive gamble. What did it say about his leadership capabilities and business sense?
SH: If you make a decision in a corporate world based on the human side of things, it’s looked at as weakness, but ultimately the personal side is what creates followers. If you are able to connect to people, if you are able to touch a certain part of them, that’s important because they can connect to your leadership.
What I find is that business takes over when it should take over, for Masai it became one of these win-now situations and it’s going to cost something. What am I willing to pay? The business transaction side of that is a no-brainer. On the floor, Kawhi is a better player and ultimately that’s what it comes down to. In the game of basketball, when you get a chance, a window of opportunity for the ultimate goal, an NBA Championship, I feel you have to take a shot at it. That decision wasn’t difficult from a business perspective to me.
From a personal perspective, it was difficult because a lot of people love DeMar and he wanted to be a Raptor for life which is something you never heard an NBA star say, ever. He said it.
Every decision you make is going to be criticized at a very high level when you are the leader, everyone is not going to agree, that’s the nature of the beast, but you gotta’ be strong and he was very strong through that storm.
When you win a championship, no one is looking back and saying, “How could you do that?” They are saying, “Thank You!”