Raheel Ramzanali: Hey, Adam Silver, we need an NBA All-Star Draft selection show

How will Steph Curry and LeBron James pick in the All-Star Draft? The people need to see this.

I won’t hide it, I think the NBA is the best league among the three major sports. The NBA truly does a great job of letting the players shine on and off the court thus making it a product the fans can really get behind. This starts with Adam Silver and his willingness to listen to what fans want and more importantly, what the NBA Player’s Union wants. He’s not afraid to voice his opinion regarding controversial topics like gambling in sports and the use of marijuana by athletes. He’s also really good at tailoring the league to help the players’ personality shine (goodbye silly dress code and hello awesome Russell Westbrook outfits!) and capturing social media attention for it.

The NBA owns social media and they’ve always been the best when it comes to capturing an audience on the digital front. Hell, they were putting up videos on before most leagues even had a video presence online. In short, the NBA is all about the fans. So it was no surprise when Silver announced a revamp of the stale NBA All-Star Game by changing the East vs West format to a playground style format where two captains would pick teams from the eligible All-Star player pool. The NFL tried to make the Pro-Bowl interesting for once by allowing Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin to draft the rosters, but that fell flat since because there really is no drama in the selection process with former players.

One of the reasons this idea was so well-received last year was because current players would be picking the rosters and we the fans would get to follow along with the draft. But early last week, Adam Silver had his first potential misstep with the fans when he announced that the NBA All-Star Game draft wouldn’t be televised AND the rosters wouldn’t be released based on where players were picked. As a lifelong NBA fan, this sucks. I’m taking it personally because we have the potential to have an annual event where we can see what players really think about their peers. I know Adam Silver is reading this so I want to lay out five reasons why he should put the draft on TV and make it the biggest non-game social media night the league has ever seen:

1. LeBron vs Curry

LeBron James is one of the greatest ever and is still the most popular player in the league, but Steph Curry isn’t far behind. I need to see these two become captains and host the draft because this will lend to the best storylines throughout the night of the All-Star Draft. This also gives fans a rooting interest in terms of the old East vs West, but also new school (Curry) vs old school (LeBron). Also, throughout the night we have the potential of Curry taking digs at LeBron for beating him twice in the finals and LeBron retorting with how many rings he has in his career. They both seem to be very friendly with each other so it really could be good natured fun with some good shots taken.

2. Durant vs Westbrook

Last year’s all-star game was all about if Durant and Westbrook would go at it and shake hands. This year, it would be all about who gets drafted first. Let’s say LeBron has the first pick and he takes Durant. Now we’re left with the possibility of Curry taking Westbrook with his first pick or passing on him to appease Durant. That alone would be worth the price of admission and social media would have a field day with it. The potential of that alone is why this needs to be on TV.

3. Team Petty

I’m super petty and proud of it. I want to know if NBA players are also wired like me. For example, would LeBron continuously pass on Kyrie Irving in the draft because of all the off-season drama and trade demands? Haha, why is LeBron taking Manu Ginobili ahead of Kyrie in the third round?! Steph Curry seems like the kind of guy that would only select his teammates in spite of better players on the board. Don’t tell me you don’t see him passing on Giannis Antetokounmpo in favor of Draymond Green or Klay Thompson.

4. What Do Players Really Think About Each Other?

We all get it that Joel Embiid is the Process and well on his way to becoming the most liked player in the league, but do current guys hold that against him? Embiid is third in East among front court players in the latest voting returns, but would Curry and James freeze him out in the draft to make sure he doesn’t go until the final few rounds just to humble him? We’ll also see how players value big guys in the league. We know this isn’t a big man league anymore, but do the players believe that logic? After the first few rounds, would Curry and James just draft based on likeability of guys they want to hang out with for an entire weekend or are they drafting to win the game?

5. Mr. Irrelevant

In the NFL Draft we celebrate Mr. Irrelevant (and he truly becomes irrelevant after cuts), but in the NBA All-Star game draft Mr. Irrelevant would get ROASTED on social media. I’m talking about next level online bullying of a very successful NBA player. Being named an all-star is a tremendous honor and only a handful of humans in the history of the world have achieved that honor, but being the last one taken in the draft? Forget about it, you’re done. Fans would make fun of you every chance they get. Good luck going to a game and not seeing a Mr. Irrelevant jersey with your number on it. Bonus: this would be even better if it happens to a veteran that has to take the beating from his peers through the entire weekend in LA. My pick for Mr. Irrelevant? Victor Oladipo. Congrats, you’re an all-star,’re the last one picked on the playground.

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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