Bob Cavezza's Blog

Tonight, I will play my first basketball game in two years.  Basketball was a large part of my childhood.  I’ve been thinking back to the origins of playing basketball in my youth.  Here’s what I remember.

My first basketball hoop was a bright orange milk crate with the bottom cut out. It was hammered to a telephone pole.  There was no backboard.  Just a milk crate hammered to a telephone pole.  No bank shots.  The ball barely fit through the carton.  Accuracy was important.


Over time, the basketball court we played on upgraded. My mom found an actual basketball rim at a yard sale. That rim was screwed into that telephone pole and we had a rim (still with no backboard) for a good 6 months.

At another point in the future, my dad brought home a huge piece of plywood. He painted a square on the plywood and screwed the plywood on to the telephone pole along with the rim. This didn’t behave like a normal backboard. When the ball hit the plywood, it would shake wildly. The ball did not bounce on this plywood. It simply hit the wood and dropped.

At some later point in time, my mom found a real backboard at a yardsale and that was eventually screwed onto the telephone for our new backboard.

The telephone pole that held the hoop also changed over time. At one point, we used this hoop that had a small pipe right next to it on the grass above the curb. I still have a lot of scar tissue on my knee becasue of that pipe.

The location and the hoop weren’t the only things that changed. We also got spraypaint and painted a foulshot line and a three point line at one point. Those lines were nowhere near perfect. They were squiggly and nowhere close to regulation.

Eventually, we found a legitimate basketball hoop. It was one of those adjustable hoops with a plastic base. It was the model where you needed to fill the base with water so it didn’t fall over. We also put some weights and sandbags on it because it got very windy on that street. It was so windy that the entire net fell over a few times. Once it smashed the rim out of shape. The ball still fit through the oddly shaped rim and we continued to ball.

We never played on a driveway or on a real “court”.  Our court was the street.  We played on a quiet street, but we often had to stop during grueling competitive games as someone would scream “Car!!”.

I wanted a basketball hoop when I was little and my parents didn’t have the resources to make it happen. Things were never perfect, but it was always good enough. All I wanted to do was play basketball with the kids down the street and we were all able to do that. We were a bunch of poor kids having fun. It was awesome.

In Quitter, Jon Acuff says that “90 perfect perfect and shared with the world always changes more lives than 100% perfect and stuck in your head.”  I’d go a lot further than that.  I think 20% perfect is good enough.  You start with 20% and you improve and iterate from there.

This “good enough” principle is why that first basketball hoop was a great Minimum Viable Product.  (1) It enabled me to fulfill an objective and relieve a painpoint (I wanted to play basketball) without a large investment of time or money on their part.  (2) They were able to iterate and make the product better over time as they saw it was being used.

People often describe me as “scrappy”. Part of it comes from not having a Computer Science degree and working as a programmer.  Another part of it comes from my tenacity to “figure things out” when I need to. Another part of it comes from just plain hard work and having hustle.  The more I think about my childhood, the more I think that this is the number one trait I get from my parents. They’re awesome scrappy people.

I didn’t come to this conclusion until recently, but my parents were the original MVP builders.  They were scrappy.  They would do small things and build upon them.  This post is dedicated to them.



Special thanks to Jay Neely and Barry Nyhan for reading drafts of this post.

§490 · February 3, 2016 · Lean Startups · · [Print]

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