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Winning Teams Part 1: Learning from Basketball and Cybersecurity

Tech leaders keep talking about building cyber talent, so what can we learn from looking back at talented teams from the past in cybersecurity and basketball.

Pop quiz: What was the best high school basketball team of all time?

Second question: How can we decide?

Allow me to offer my humble opinions, starting with question No. 2.

First, let’s assume that any team that is referred to as one of the “greatest high school basketball teams of all time” will have an almost perfect (probably undefeated) record. Championship victories will be chronicled against some — or many — notable “powerhouse” opponents that national rankings declare as elite.

Second, the trouble still comes when comparing high school teams from different decades, different regions of the country and from different size schools.

So third, my best answer, is to look at where the players on the team ended up years later. For example, did any of the players go to the NBA?

Which leads me to my answer to the first question. Although there is a debate online, I agree with many others that the best high school team of all was the Baltimore Dunbar Poets in 1982-1983. You can read more about them here or here (or watch the video below).

Here’s an excerpt from the second article:

“Their accomplishments seemed impossible and unattainable even as they occurred. However, the legacy of the 1981–1982 and 1982–1983 Paul Laurence Dunbar High School boys basketball teams continued to grow after their incredible seasons. The 1981–1982 team finished its season undefeated.

"The 1982–1983 team followed with a 31–0 campaign and a No. 1 national ranking. This group of young men became widely known as the best high school basketball team of all time, and many of them went on to even greater basketball fame. Nineteen eighty-two Dunbar graduate Gary Graham played college basketball at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), which was then a powerhouse. David Wingate, another 1982 grad, won an NCAA championship with Georgetown University before embarking on a productive thirteen-year NBA career. Nineteen eighty-three graduates Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, Reggie Lewis and Reggie Williams — the latter teamed with Wingate on Georgetown’s 1984 national championship team — enjoyed lengthy and notable NBA careers. Tim Dawson, Keith James and Mike Brown went on to star at the University of Miami, UNLV and Syracuse University, respectively. The 1982–1983 team was so talented that Reggie Lewis, who became Northeastern University’s fourth all-time leading scorer, a two-time conference player of the year, a first-round NBA draft pick, a NBA All-Star, and the captain of the Boston Celtics, could not even crack the Dunbar starting lineup.”

In short, why were they the best ever? There were four NBA players on one high school basketball team. ESPN called them the “Baltimore Boys” in a documentary that came out in 2017: “Coach Bob Wade's talented team played flawlessly with a number of standouts — Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, Reggie Lewis, Reggie Williams and David Wingate — making their way to the NBA.” said it this way: “In one game against DeMatha, Muggsy went up for a layup, but was trapped by two defenders in mid-air. So, on the fly, he did a 360-degree turn and threw an alley-oop pass behind his neck. Reggie Williams caught it in mid-flight and slammed it home. The crowd exploded. They had to stop the entire game for a minute because everyone in the gym couldn’t believe what they had just seen.

"During their run, Reggie Williams grew to be one of the best high school players in the country, and USA Today named him the High School Player of the Year. Muggsy was the spark that made the whole team go, and his infectious energy led their fast-paced attack. That year, Muggsy averaged eight points, eight assists and eight steals per game as the offensive initiator and the defensive disruptor.

"Finishing 59-0 over two seasons, those Dunbar teams were a force. In total, 12 Poets players went on to Division I basketball programs in college. Williams headed to Georgetown, Reggie Lewis went to play for Northeastern and Muggsy attended Wake Forest.

"After college, Wingate, Williams, Lewis and Bogues were all drafted and migrated to the NBA."


Next time, in the second part of this two-part series, we’ll discuss what this topic has to do with cybersecurity, learning from the past and building winning teams for the future.

But for now, I will leave you with these related quotes on learning from history:

“Life is divided into three terms — that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.” William Wordsworth

And: “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Henry Ford
Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.