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Friday, March 20

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John Thomas

Vice President of Basketball Development at the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx


Many people think that success in sports, as with success in business, “defines” a person for life. John Thomas, who initially rose to fame as a star basketball player with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and later as a first-round NBA draft pick, would beg to differ.

“I’m a person who happened to play basketball,” says Thomas, who doesn’t define himself as a former basketball player, but rather as a leader openly sharing and applying his life lessons to benefit others. As Vice President of Basketball Development for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, Thomas is responsible for managing and growing the organization’s Basketball Academy, connecting current NBA and WNBA players to the community and developing an NBA/WNBA alumni program.

Within each of these roles, Thomas imbues the work that he relishes – helping children and young adults reach their potential, especially off-court – with the years of successes and setbacks he’s experienced. For every perceived height Thomas has ever achieved, like helping the Gophers reach the 1997 NCAA Final Four, he’s endured corresponding tough times, such as being bounced across seven different NBA teams in 5 years, or exiting the NBA with initially little business, personal finance, or life skills knowledge.

This explains in part why Thomas seeks to ensure that the professional players he regularly sees, the businesspeople who comprise his work team, and the youth he instructs, all come away with a better understanding of their personal capabilities. Like knowing “what does your brand look like externally to others?” or realizing that “leadership starts with awareness and the ability to understand people.” The more you understand and appreciate others, he believes, the better you will be as a leader – and as a person.



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