Slam-Dunk Success

Leading from Every Position on Life's Court


By Byron Scott

By Charlie Norris

By Jon Warech

Foreword by Earvin “Magic” Johnson

Read by Byron Scott

Read by Charlie Norris

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Great leadership begins with great understanding. No one knows that better than basketball legend Byron Scott and lifelong business executive Charlie Norris who, respectively, won NBA championships and resurrected multimillion-dollar corporations by being team players no matter their position. Whether it’s on the basketball court, in the boardroom, or in everyday life, getting to the heads and hearts of people is paramount to getting the most out of them. In SLAM-DUNK SUCCESS, Scott and Norris share their parallel formulas for victory and prove that, with the right tools, winning can happen anywhere. As a player Scott won three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, and as coach he twice took the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals and won Coach of the Year honors with the New Orleans Hornets. With every team his role changed, but his winning mentality never faltered. As CEO of McKesson Water, Charlie Norris turned a $200 million-dollar company into a company that sold ten years later for $1.1 billion dollars and, as chairman of the board of Freshpet, he helped lead the start-up from early stage testing to become a publicly traded company with a market value of over $350 million. In each job, he led with the same amount of conviction and care. Their book-which grew from their unlikely friendship and realization that two men from completely different backgrounds could have the same leadership ideals-breaks down their keys to motivating others, negotiating deals, and creating prosperity from scratch. Their blueprint includes lessons on listening, turning failure into learning opportunities, and delegating authority with extreme precision. Leadership is a full-time job and Byron Scott and Charlie Norris’s story is a guidebook for leaders in all fields and in any position looking to better both their careers and lives. Champions are formed when people make those around them better and this book shows how you can be a winner every day.


Foreword by Earvin "Magic" Johnson

Leadership is a funny thing. Most people think that you work your way up to becoming a leader. You win an NCAA championship, you get taken with the first pick of the 1979 NBA draft, you win a championship and are named the Finals MVP, and then you are the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers. But a true leader knows it's the other way around; you're a leader first and then you win.

It's not true just in basketball, but in every aspect of your life. If you're a college intern working in the business world for the first time, then that is your chance to shine. That's your opportunity to be a leader. Entry-level employee? Middle manager? Every department is looking for leaders, and those who take on that role are the successful ones.

Leaders are everywhere, leading by example, directly coaching others, motivating people around them, and helping their peers or even their superiors become better at what they do. On the Showtime Lakers I was a leader. I wasn't THE leader. There were a number of us, including Byron Scott, who spoke his mind, pushed us to be great, and played his heart out. When we needed him to be our leading scorer, he was our leading scorer. When we needed him to be a facilitator, he was a facilitator. That's leadership, and that's why we are five-time NBA champions.

Leadership is innate. You don't just leave it out there on the basketball court or in the locker room. When I retired from the game, I wasn't just going to retire from leadership. I had to shift my focus and be a leader elsewhere. Leaders are constantly changing the world around them, and they're doing it in a number of ways. There were business ventures—some good, some bad—and work to be done in my community. Sometimes I led financially, while other times I went in and made a difference with my own two hands. It's the reason I consider myself a success today. It's the reason I can look at not only my championship rings but also my portfolio of businesses and my reputation in the community and know that I'm a champion.

I went out and made victory happen, and you can too. I'll tell you one thing, though: I wish that when I was getting started in my career, I had a book like this. Byron and Charlie's detailed look into their overlapping business and basketball lives is the leader's handbook. By learning from their experiences, readers can see firsthand how to improve their own lives and nurture the necessary skills to be a champion in their chosen profession. These lessons are universal, and the best part is, anyone can do it.

Part of leadership is foresight, and I for one can tell you that I saw this book coming a mile away. I work out at Equinox with Charlie and Byron, and while most people did a double take when they saw those two working out together, I knew. Sure, they look different, and they come from different backgrounds, but mentally they're the same person. When those two would be laughing or sweating out sets on one of the machines, I knew it was also a meeting of the minds. I knew that while they had their differences on the surface, when it came to not only their goals in life but also how they went about achieving them, they were one and the same. Two competitive, intelligent, driven men like Charlie and Byron will always find each other, and thankfully they have joined forces to tell you their story.

As you read this book, think of your role on the team—think of where you are versus where you want to be—and know that from any position you can make a difference. You can be the leader. You can be the CEO of your life. You can be the Charlie Norris. You can be the Byron Scott. You can be the Magic Johnson. You can strive for greatness and walk away a champion. If picking up this book is the first step in empowering your leadership qualities, then the winning begins right now.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson


"Business is the ultimate sport."

—Mark Cuban

Whether you are a basketball star in the NBA or a boardroom star with an MBA, the model for success is exactly the same. Follow the path set by Byron Scott and Charlie Norris and become the leader you always knew you could be.


I love basketball. I was out on the court shooting every day from the time I was physically able to pick up a ball. When I was twelve years old my dad asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I immediately said I wanted to be a professional basketball player.

"That's great, that's great," he said. "But what if you don't make it?"

"I'm going to make it."

He laughed in my face. My mom was standing right there and started yelling at me about school.

"Oh, but you gotta keep going to school, you gotta get your education, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta…"

There were a lot of you gottas before I could turn pro, and I heard all that, but as a twelve-year-old the only thing I could focus on was that I gotta be great.

From that day on, I worked every day and did everything I could to become the best basketball player that I could be. I practiced hard and I loved it. I pushed myself to be the best version of me both on and off the court. I gave everything to basketball.

Through high school in Los Angeles and college at Arizona State University, all I thought about was the NBA. "You got a chance" was what everyone would tell me. I started believing it. If there was a party that got in the way of what I was trying to achieve, then I wouldn't go. I wouldn't drink. I wouldn't smoke. I was determined and focused, and nothing was going to stand in my way. It was hard work, but when I finally did make it to the NBA, I realized that that was just the beginning.


I never had a long-term plan as a kid to become a CEO. Even in college at the University of Rochester I majored first in psychology and then in history. Business really crept into my mind as a career direction only when I was in graduate school at Northeastern University. I wasn't even sure I wanted to get an MBA, but I'm glad I did.

My whole life, though, I was interested in people. Even as a kid I wanted to know everything about the people around me, and I wanted them to know I was a hard worker. When I was shoveling snow, I made sure everyone in the neighborhood thought of me as the kid who would shovel snow.

As a teenager I bagged groceries, and I always talked to the customers. I found their lives fascinating, and in the back of my mind I always felt that they would think about me if there were other job opportunities in the community. I was driven by the thought of moving from bagging groceries to running the register, because I always wanted to try something different. I always wanted more responsibility.

My dad worked very hard and he worked very intelligently. I saw that and became a person who just enjoyed hitting a goal. I did whatever it took to get there.

In a co-op program at Northeastern I realized how I could apply what I was learning in school to the workplace. It made me realize that the business world didn't stop at the checkout line. There was room to grow from salesman to manager and CEO. The sky was the limit, and I wanted to shoot for the stars. I liked working hard. There was a satisfaction to that. I wanted to be the best at whatever it was I was doing, and if that led me to being a CEO, then I would find a way to be the best at that.


In fourteen seasons in the NBA, I won three championships playing alongside the great Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and the Showtime Lakers—a nickname we earned from our fast-paced, flashy style of play. Day in and day out Coach Pat Riley pushed me to be my best, and in every season my best was needed in different ways. In one of those years I was the team's leading scorer. In other years I was called on to be more of a defensive specialist. When I returned to the Lakers for one final season, I was more of a coach on the court, as young players like Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were now the stars of the show.

Being a leader not only means doing whatever it takes to win, it also means making everyone around you better. Winning a championship takes all fifteen guys playing their best basketball. When I transitioned to coaching I focused on whatever was needed to turn each of those fifteen guys into the best version of themselves.

When I was a coach with the New Jersey Nets, we went to the NBA Finals twice. In New Orleans I won Coach of the Year with Chris Paul and the Hornets as we turned a once-mediocre team into a top contender in the Western Conference. In both cases I helped to mold young stars, squeezed a little extra out of aging veterans, and learned what made each player tick. It led to a lot of winning.

There were mistakes along the way. At times I was too tough. At times I was too stubborn. Other times maybe I was a bit too trusting. It led to losing—in small doses in New Jersey and New Orleans, and larger ones in Cleveland and Los Angeles.

Through it all I learned a lot about myself, including what it takes to be a leader in nearly any circumstance and how to push the right buttons to find greatness in every player. Mostly, though, I learned that I'd never stop learning.


I climbed the ranks as an executive, starting with the Scott Paper Company, where I worked as a sales rep while I was still in school. There I saw the value in marketing, but I also learned how to form business relationships. Negotiating by way of understanding people's wants and needs was a skill that I would use for the rest of my life.

I knew the only way to expand my horizons and meet all types of people was to explore the world. I took a job as a marketing manager at Rank Hovis McDougall in the UK and then became a project leader for Nestlé, a job that took me around the globe. I learned how different cultures interacted, conducted business everywhere from local markets to corporate headquarters, and put my foot in my mouth a number of times.

Growing as a leader means screwing up and learning from your mistakes. I did plenty of that, and by the time I was president of Deer Park Spring Water I had a better grasp of how to motivate people to strive for greatness.

There were a lot of great business wins over the years. I bought Deer Park for $3.5 million and sold it for over $20 million in twenty months. At McKesson Water we went from $220 million to over $400 million in sales, and sold the water division to Danone for $1.1 billion ten years later. Twenty months after partnering with a private equity firm to pay $12 million for Day Runner, we sold it for $45 million.

There were also failures and missteps, but the lessons learned from the good and the bad all led me to Freshpet, where I'm now chairman of the board of a company that I truly believe will reshape the pet food industry. The opportunity to be chairman of a publicly traded company was a new one for me, and even at my age, I'm still learning.


When I go to the gym, I'm there to exercise. It's been part of my routine nearly my whole life. Staying in shape is important to me not only on a personal level but also as a coach. I want to be on the court with the guys so they know I'm one of them—an older version, but one of them nonetheless.

At the Lakers' facility I talked to everyone. I enjoyed it and I learned from them. Most importantly, they are all part of the team, and each Lakers employee plays a role in the team's success. At Equinox I'm on my own time, but as a leader I feel I should always be trying to better myself. Working out is part of that, but being part of the community, meeting new people, and creating new partnerships are also key to growing as a leader.

When I was introduced to Charlie, I liked him right away, but I had no idea where the friendship would go. He wanted to work out and valued his time at the gym in the same way that I did mine. When we starting working out together I saw how competitive he was—a characteristic I see all the time now when we play backgammon and boules (the French form of bocce) and even have the occasional shooting contest.

The friendship could have stopped there. That's what happens with most people. There's the surface-level friendship that develops where you become gym buddies or guys who go drinking together or whatever the case may be. What is important for all relationships (and what we want you to learn in this book) is that when you take relationships to a deeper level, you find more opportunities below the surface.

Charlie and I don't look alike, we don't have similar backgrounds, we're not even close in age, but we think almost exactly alike. He's my brother from another mother, and when I tell people about us they don't get it. But when they see us, they can feel our vibe. He's made me a better coach, a better businessman, and an all-around better person.


I feel the same way about my relationship with Byron. He made me better at my job by allowing me to observe how he does his job and by talking with me about both life and work situations. He's also made me a better backgammon and cards player—or at least I feel as if I'm better when I win.

When I met Byron, I was intrigued. Having grown up in Boston, I had been a Lakers hater all my life, but he was such a presence in the gym. Being a hometown hero and a person of his stature, Byron was a guy everyone at Equinox wanted to know. When I saw his ability to smile, shake hands, and have everyone in the room like him without its interrupting his workout, I knew he possessed qualities that I admired.

I didn't know what to expect when we first met. I had no idea what would come from it. I didn't even know if he really liked me or not. But once we started talking, we saw that despite our differences, we share a similar set of values and rules for success.

I noticed early on how cerebral Byron is. He analyzes situations, thinks about everything he says before he says it, and always seems to have a plan for himself and for the team. As a team-first guy myself, I usually had similar plans, so I knew pretty early we were going to do great things together.

Now we still push each other at the gym and crack jokes at each other's expense while doing it, but we also talk business strategy and ways we can work together to better each other's career. Running a basketball team and sitting on the board of a publicly traded company, surprisingly, have many similarities. Once we discovered that our collective set of rules for success in life were ultimately universal, we realized our potential to grow as leaders together was endless.


There was a time in my last season with the Lakers that I decided to bench Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell. They weren't playing well, and they needed to earn their minutes back. I got beaten up in the media and by some in management who thought I was too old school. I just wanted the guys to play better.

One day I was with Charlie, who sat in on practices and on film sessions, so he'd seen what I was dealing with. We were on the elliptical machines at Equinox, and I was talking to him about connecting with these young guys. I was trying to communicate with them and they just weren't getting it.

"I'm just trying to figure out a way that they can really get it," I said.

"Why don't you put it in question form to them?" he asked. "Ask them, 'What's blocking you from being great?' and see how they respond."

I just smiled. I liked where this was going, and because I knew Charlie so well I knew exactly what he was going to say next.

"After they answer," he said, "ask them, 'How can I help you get there?'"

So I went to each of those players and did just that. I gave them time to think about it too. Julius Randle's answer was phenomenal. He said he was blocking himself and pointed out the mistakes he was making. Then, when I asked how I could help, he said, "Coach, hold me accountable." I jumped up and gave him a big hug.

But all the young guys took to the exercise, and it helped them grow. It opened their minds up to thinking about what they need to do to be successful, and it will stay with them their entire careers. Five years from now, if they are struggling at some point in their season, they'll ask themselves, "What's blocking me?"

I was looking for a new way to connect with them and for a new perspective on it, so I went to Charlie, who helped me get to the hearts and minds of these kids. If that's old school, then I'm old school and I'm proud of it.

Charlie and I have similar leadership models. His work in the business world isn't about short-term victories; it's focused on long-term championships. One or two bad financial years to ultimately turn a company into something worth ten times its original value is worth it, especially if the employees become better at what they do along the way.

It's what we do, and it's what you should do too. That's why this book is necessary. It brings together our two very different worlds and shows that the concepts behind solid leadership are the same in any arena. Life isn't about small victories, it's about figuring out what's blocking you from greatness and finding a way to be a champion. This book is our way of asking, "How can we help?"


Byron has truly always cared about his players and wanted them to be successful. He knows which of them can handle his really getting on them, and which need a hug sometimes. He puts them first and thinks about their long-term success and how it helps the team.

Leadership isn't about what's best for right now. It's not even about what's best for the leader. It's about doing the right thing for the team and making sure the future remains bright for everyone involved. That's what has made Byron a success.

That winning mentality has translated to success off the court as well. Just as with the players, Byron has a way with business leaders. He'll come with me to meetings and wow investors with his charm and knowledge of our industry.

He's a huge asset to have in business, and it's worked in both our favors, as he's invested in a number of the projects I'm working on. Yes, we have fun going to dinners, traveling, and playing all sorts of games for high stakes—sometimes as much as five dollars changes hands at a time—but at my age it's nice to have a new person around who helps me to be a better leader as well.

This book isn't about making new friends. We are using the foundation of our friendship to show you how two people from different worlds can have the same leadership qualities. If you want to be an NBA champion, an all-star in the boardroom, or anything in between, you will likely live by these same core values. Our joint knowledge proves that no matter what your profession, the ball is always in your court when it comes to leadership.

There will always be an obstacle between you and success, whether it's the need to motivate others, negotiate, build a winning organization, or improve your own personal leadership skills, but there's always a path to victory. Even in failure there is victory, and both Byron and I have experienced that and later found success because of it.

Leadership is a 24-7 quality. You should never turn it off. To be an effective leader you have to be an effective listener, treat people with respect, and find learning opportunities within every experience at the workplace and everywhere else life takes you.

As you read this book about what was blocking us and how we dealt with it, think about what's blocking you. Hop on the metaphorical elliptical with us, and let's figure it out together.



Marketing manager, Rank Hovis McDougall, UK 1971–1972
Project leader, Nestlé S. A., Switzerland 1973–1976
Director of new ventures, Nestlé USA 1977–1980
President, Deer Park Spring Water Co. 1981–1990
President, McKesson Water Products Co. 1990–2000
Senior vice president, McKesson Co. 1993–2000
Chairman and director, Glacier Water Services Inc. 2001–2016
Chairman and director, Day Runner Inc. 2003–2004
Chairman and director, Freshpet Inc. 2006–present
Director, Manna Pro Products Llc. 2015–present
Director, Primo Water Corp. 2015–present


Los Angeles Lakers 1983–1993
Indiana Pacers 1993–1995
Vancouver Grizzlies 1995–1996
Los Angeles Lakers 1996–1997
Panathinaikos, Greece 1997–1998
Sacramento Kings (assistant) 1998–2000
New Jersey Nets 2000–2004
New Orleans Hornets 2004–2009
Cleveland Cavaliers 2010–2013
Los Angeles Lakers 2014–2016

Chapter 1

Honesty at the Top

"Whoever is careless with truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs."

—Albert Einstein

Being the boss is a tricky business, but the secret to success lies in how you treat people. Whether it's someone's first day on the job or their last, honesty goes a long way, especially when you realize how small the world is in your particular field.


The opportunity to be the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers was a dream come true. When I got the call telling me it was even a possibility, all these emotions ran through my head. I'd played eleven seasons with the Lakers, six times going to the NBA Finals and three times winning a championship. I grew up in Los Angeles, fourteen blocks from the Forum. This was my team, and this was the job of a lifetime.

Jim Buss, the part owner and executive vice president of the organization, and General Manager Mitch Kupchak brought me in for several interviews and began the talks by saying one thing:

"The first two years are going to be really tough, are you OK with that?"

My response was, "I am OK, but are you OK with that?"

I could handle it. I knew what I was signing up for—a team with a lot of young players, an aging Kobe Bryant in the final years of his career, and an organization that was building for the future. A championship was out of the question from day one, but I knew winning basketball in LA, and I was confident I could bring us to that level once we had the right pieces in place.

I signed a two-year deal with a team option for a third year, but the talk was always that I would re-sign. We all agreed this was a three-or four-year project. They knew it. I knew it. We all knew what those first years were going to be like, and I trusted them when they said I was part of their long-term plans.

That was my thought process through the negotiations—they know me, I know them, I can trust them. When you tell me something and look me in the eye as you say it, I take it as gospel, because that's how I am. I'm honest, and I expect honesty. Especially with people like Mitch and Jim, whom I'd had a relationship with for years; I expected them to stay true to their word.

That's what hurt the most when Mitch broke the news after just two seasons that they were going in a different direction. I felt deceived. I felt that Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak had used me to get through those final two years of Kobe Bryant's career and saved their own butts by making me the scapegoat. It seemed as if that had been their plan all along. I may bleed purple and gold, but after that meeting, the blood was all over management's hands.

I talked to a number of people in the following days. Jerry West. Kobe Bryant. Longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti. They all showed their support, as well as their shock at the team's decision.

My dad called me the next day to see if I was OK. I said, "Pops, I'm good." Then he called my girlfriend Cece.

"Cece, this is your soon-to-be-one-of-these-days father-in-law," he said. (Of course she wanted me to know that part.) "I know my son, and he has a tendency to hold a lot of things in, so look after him. He won't let you know if he's really hurting, so just take care of him for me."

He knows because he's the same way. Where I grew up it was considered a sign of weakness for a man to show his emotions. As I've gotten older and had kids of my own, I've tried to let that go. I think it's important to let your kids see you laugh and cry. But in situations like this it's tough. I don't cry over spilled milk.

I went home, decompressed, and went to the gym the next morning. Mentally I had moved on. There was nothing I could do about it, so I wasn't going to dwell on it.


After years of working in the packaged food and bottled water industry for Nestlé, and buying and selling Deer Park, I was hired as president of McKesson Water Products Company. It was a large company that did $220 million in sales, and I had 2,500 employees working under me, so this was a big opportunity and a challenge I was ready to accept.

My predecessor, who had been promoted to a senior management position at McKesson Corporate—the parent company of McKesson Water Products Company—had made only modest changes to the company. The profit was going up by 5 percent annually because McKesson Water raised the prices each year, but it wasn't growing as a company. We didn't have a platform from which to grow.

There was no centralization. No system in place. McKesson Water had three different water brands—Sparkletts, Alhambra, and Crystal—and when it purchased a new company, that company would have to create a new strategic business unit with its own general manager, marketing team, and accounting department. Financially and operationally, it didn't make much sense.


  • "Although it's common to find community at Equinox, Byron and Charles found uncommon friendship in one another. Together, they discovered parallels that exist between sports and business, making this an empowering read for anyone in a leadership role."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 10.0px Arial}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Harvey Spevak, CEO and Partner, Equinox
  • "Reading this book made me feel like I was in the locker room with Coach Scott. His leadership helped me jumpstart my career and in this book you really get a play-by-play of his winning philosophy."—Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • "Success that looks like a slam-dunk rarely is. Byron and Charlie chronicle the strikingly similar mental attitudes, preparation, work-ethic, fortitude, failures and foibles that has led to their success in very different fields and sparked their unlikely friendship. Their stories and the lessons they draw from their personal experiences will be of value both on the court and in the corporate arena."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 8.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Helvetica}Lena Goldberg, senior lecturer, Harvard Business School
  • "I had the greatest opportunity to coach Byron and I knew he'd be a great coach one day. Reading the book reaffirmed my feeling that he's a great leader and motivator who gets to the heart of what makes players tick."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Helvetica}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Coach Larry Brown

On Sale
Apr 25, 2017
Hachette Audio

Byron Scott

About the Author

BYRON SCOTT is a former NBA player and coach who won three championships as a member of “Showtime” Lakers and coached the New Jersey Nets to two NBA Finals. He is now an analyst for ESPN.

CHARLES NORRIS is a former CEO and president of McKesson Water and Deer Park Spring Water. He currently has an investment portfolio of five companies where he plays an active board role, including Freshpet, where he is chairman of the board.

Learn more about this author