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DeAndre Jordan: A Slam Dunk Recruiting Case Study

Earlier this week, one of the wackiest free agency circuses in NBA history occurred. I realize this is an accounting website, so many of you probably don’t have even the faintest idea what I’m talking about. I will summarize it for you. Last Friday, Los Angeles Clippers star basketball player DeAndre Jordan verbally accepted an offer to join Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks. Maverick fans were elated; Clipper fans were bummed.

But over the weekend something unusual happened. Jordan started to have second thoughts about his decision and had not yet signed a contract with the Mavericks. On Monday he reached out to some people in the Clippers organization to express his doubts. On Wednesday afternoon, a contingent of Clippers players, as well as the head coach and team owner, flew to Jordan’s home in Houston in a last ditch effort to bring him back to the Clippers.

Long story short, Jordan ended up signing with the Clippers and pissing off Mark Cuban and the Mavericks while temporarily making himself the laughingstock of the entire sports world. (I left out the part where the Clippers barricaded Jordan in his home so he could not meet with Mark Cuban again, and wouldn’t let him leave until his new contract was signed. This part of the story was hilarious to follow on Twitter. If you didn’t know about it, you missed out.)

At this point you are probably asking, “Hey B4V, how does any of this relate to accounting?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Jordan’s journey this past week was a great case study in the recruiting process, verbal offers and signing on the dotted line…

Getting Wined and Dined –- Jordan has become a damn good basketball player. So good that his free agency caused a frenzy among some teams to win his services. The moment the free agency period opened, teams like the Dallas Mavericks were doing everything in their power to spend time with Jordan. They took him to expensive dinners and made him some promises that they probably couldn’t keep. This is the phase of the recruiting process where the recruit gets bullshitted. A lot. This happens every day at every company, and I’m sure everyone reading this article has experienced it first hand at some point, so I’m not going to spend a lot more time on it. Let’s just say the whole wooing process can really go to one’s head and it’s important to be able to put all of it aside when it comes time to make the important decision.

The Agent –- More information will come out in the coming days, but there is plenty of speculation right now that Jordan’s agent, who has a business relationship and history with Mark Cuban, steered Jordan to the Mavericks. The Clippers are an objectively better team and had the ability to pay Jordan a lot more money. This brings me to my first point: When you have an important decision to make, it’s good to solicit advice from others, but they may not always have your best interests in mind. In fact, other people’s interests often conflict with yours. It’s important to always remember that this is your life and your decision. Jordan learned this lesson the hard way.

The Offer –- This is where Jordan is taking the most abuse in the media. He accepted a verbal offer from the Mavericks, and the Mavericks continued to strategize for the coming season based on this commitment. All the other teams in the NBA did as well. Jordan is now being called immature, unprofessional, unethical, undependable and a liar by many people (most notably, loser Dallas Maverick fans). But here’s the thing: A verbal offer is not binding. Either party can renege on a verbal offer until the actual contract is signed. This is an important point for anyone going through recruiting (it’s important for young accountants to know that even when you sign an offer letter, your employment is still “at will” and you can legally back out of the agreement). You do not need to go through with a bad decision. You can and should do what’s best for yourself, even if it upsets some people. You are the one that has to live with the decisions that you make.

Moral of the Story: An essential lesson to learn in the business world is that you always have to look out for your own best interests. You cannot count on anyone else to do this for you. If Jordan would have signed a contract with the Mavericks, despite his second thoughts, he would have made the Mavericks very happy; but Jordan himself may not have been as happy in the long run. Instead, despite the short-term criticism he’s receiving, he set himself up for a more ideal long-term situation. Long after the fine dinners and SWAG are gone, we are left to live with the career decisions that we’ve made.

Image: Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons