Corporate Sports Metaphors Explained by 76ers GM Sam Hinkie

The modern business world is an enigma, and it’s even harder to decrypt when people use convoluted sports metaphors to get their points across. What does it mean, for example, when your supervisor tells you that you’re “par for the course” in the most recent fiscal month, or when the analyst working under you says he wants to “go all Latrell Sprewell on your ass”?

These pithy expressions cause plenty of miscommunication in corporate America. I, Sam Hinkie, GM of the Philadelphia 76ers and corporate/athletic savant, am here to help shed light on these phrases. So let’s…kick things off.

“The ball’s in your court”: Ah, yes, the godfather of sports metaphors. The ball (read: memo, presentation, etc.), when it’s in your court, is in your hands. You have the power to decide what to do with the ball, to craft it in whatever fashion you deem best. You are (temporarily) God, and Microsoft Office Suite does thy bidding, even if you choose to use replacement-level fonts for the foreseeable future.

“Full-court press”: The last bastion of the desperate and depraved. A dinosaur in the post-Thibodeau era, the “full-court press” is a try-hard tactic that brings little hope for success. However, when you deploy this press sparingly, even with misfit toys like Nik Stauskas and Tony Wroten, it gives a whiff of innovation and inspiration that can mask the overwhelming scent of hot garbage.

Out of principle, I use this metaphor frequently.

“Slam dunk”: The easiest two points in the game. Slam dunks are efficient, direct shots–the pillars of any intelligent offense. This statement perhaps limits their corporate berth, but it is imperative that you understand that slam dunks are, like corner three-pointers and well-executed two-for-ones, one of few things that are good and pure in this world.

If you have a shot at a corporate “slam dunk,” you must seize it. For one, slam dunks bring glee to the mouth-breathing masses, leaving them briefly enamored with your abominable product. More specifically, the physicality of a slam dunk provides opportunity for crippling injuries and indefinite timelines, which, along with inertia and Pennsylvanian malaise, are among the few reasons I remain employed.

“Technical foul”: Perhaps you don’t understand the finer aspects of business interactions–who does, really? A technical foul is a time out, a temporary reprieve to revisit the rule book. Maybe you engaged in unlawful recruiting practices, or committed blatant IP infringement. Maybe you tried to play a league game with only four active players. It happens. Your heart was in the right place in the long term, you swear.

When you hear this phrase, you needn’t worry. Technical fouls are modest slaps on the wrist that only cause trouble if your name is Rasheed.

“Let’s trade our only promising players for protected first-round draft picks”: To preempt your question: no, this metaphor isn’t used too frequently. In fact, I only heard it once by the water cooler, on a stormy winter Thursday. The phrase, brilliantly eloquent, was succeeded by a chorus of laughs. Why? I couldn’t say.

I followed the analyst back to his office to garner his thoughts; as it turns out, he was a part-time janitor. Actually, a custodial intern. I hired him within the hour.

“Go for the win”: The “win”: an overrated concept for simpletons and sheeple alike. Instead, I’m partial to the phrase “avoid mid-level competency like the pneumonic plague.” This expression can be found sprinkled on motivational cat posters throughout my team’s offices.

“You really tanked up there”: Indeed, your recent presentation may have been, in the traditional sense, a smoldering heap, the likes of which can only be witnessed these days in Sacramento. But out of this heap comes opportunity. Think about what this does for your career: now that your advisor knows of your struggles with presentations, he’ll give you the best opportunities to improve. So next year, you’ll return triumphantly to the same conference, and your presentation will be much more competitive. That’s assuming, of course, that Joel Embiid stays healthy, and the other players on your team still buy into The Process. If not, then “the goalposts have been moved*,” and the following year should be where you set your sights.

*I have no idea what this means.

“The Nets could go 0-82”: Wait, really? If this is true, it’s quite concerning. Let me verify with Woj.

It appears that the PA sound system has deceived me yet again. What a misunderstanding. However, the most advanced models project the Nets to win between 20 and 25 games this year, which is still competitively low, I fear.

“The stockholders are booing us”: Not everyone understands genius. In the business world, ruffling feathers is a necessity, and when you do what you must, folks will try to stop you at every stage. Perhaps you have to take an award-winning organization and remove every sense of professionalism. Perhaps you invoke drastic measures, like banking your firm’s future on a mysterious man named Robert Covington. Perhaps you foster a cult-like personality and a business model that’s eerily like a Ponzi scheme, complete with investors upset until their assets are flipped for draft picks, which are then transformed into newer draft picks, which then…um, have you seen Pay It Forward?

But that’s Corporate America: where the blind lead the blind, who then turn the ball over for an easy two points the other way.

“You’re fired”: Upon hearing this, you’re minutes away from getting a job with the Knicks.


Lucas Hubbard is a humor writer based in Washington DC. Go for the win and follow him on Twitter.