When I was a kid, my parents started getting movies from a place called Feature Films For Families. It’s a little operation out of Utah, that creates family friendly movies. Additionally, they curate other movies that are either family friendly or almost family friendly.
One of those movies was The Pistol: Birth of a Legend. It tells the (probably dramatized) story of “Pistol” Pete Maravich, a basketball player in the 70s. The movie takes place when Pete is in the 8th grade, and it shows his rise from the little kid no one wanted on the team, to being on varsity a year before he was “old enough”.
Today, I introduced my children to the movie, and it’s the first time I’ve seen it since I was a kid myself. I didn’t set out to learn any business lessons, but as it seems to go in an entrepreneur’s life, I picked some up along the way.
- Never underestimate the underdog.
This one seems obvious, so I’ll get it out of the way quickly. Pete is shorter, scrawnier, and younger than everyone on the team. Despite the number of people who say they root for the underdog, people still seem to overlook them in this day & age.
- Hail to the power of introverts.
Not only is he young/small/short, but he’s quiet. He keeps to himself, but this gives him a superpower. Focus. His father instilled in him the value of big, big dreams. And rather than sitting around and “hoping” for that dream to come true, he worked. He ate, drank, slept, and breathed basketball. And not just basketball…it was all with the aim of excelling at basketball.
- Being different can be a gift.
Initially, the coach doesn’t want to let Pete on the team, because he thinks he’s a showboater. The Pistol has tricks up his sleeve, that no one’s ever seen yet, and it scares the rest of his team. But after a while, his drive starts to infect his teammates & they realize that his moves give him an edge.
- Know your value.
Early in the movie, his father is teaching him about confidence. Clearly it’s an oft repeated speech, as his wife & son both mockingly join in on the words “cause he’s got confidence”. As a demonstration, he explains a particular stunt with the basketball, and he tries to get his son to do it. Unsurprisingly his son can’t do it. His wife takes the opportunity, and dares him to try, and (also unsurprisingly) he pulls it off. He turns to his son, and he says “You ‘thought’ you could do it. I knew I could do it. Confidence.”
Later in the movie, he & his father are discussing the greatest basketball player in the world. His father & mother throw out various names, but Pete shakes his head at all of them. Finally, his dad asks who he thinks the greatest player is. Pete turns his back on him, plants his feet squarely, and bounces the ball backwards, between his legs, and up into the basketball hoop. He then saunters away tossing the line “Who do you think Pop?” over his shoulder. Confidence.
This movie was inspiring to me as a kid, because I was always the short kid. In fact, at 5’1″, it’s safe to say that I never grew out of it. To see someone who was so willing to pursue their dreams, no matter how seemingly crazy, obviously made a great impression on me. I’ve gone on to serve in the military, sing the National Anthem at over a dozen on/off base events, and start my own business.
I’m thrilled to say that the inspirations from the movie have stood the test of time, and I’m still finding gems from these movies as I watch them with my children.