“The Wooden Effect” – Redefining Success

In April, the best and brightest in college basketball came together in Los Angeles, CA for the annual “College Basketball Awards” show. Several awards were presented, but none more significant than the most prestigious award in College Basketball – the John R. Wooden Award. In the history of sports, there are few names that carry as much esteem and stature as the late-great John Wooden’s – and his influence is always at the forefront of the momentous evening.

Our team was afforded the distinct privilege to be a part of the festivities in partnership with ESPN and Wendy’s to execute the inaugural “Fan Jam”. We were handed the keys to a premier venue in our industry – Microsoft Square, in the iconic L.A. Live entertainment complex. Our objective was to design, build and activate a unique experience for award show attendees and the local community in the hours leading up to the award show.

Months of coordination went into the Fan Jam and what our team accomplished was nothing short of spectacular. A full-sized basketball court played host to a youth tournament, a world-renowned high-flying dunk team, and other on-court competitions. The biggest names in college basketball today – Lonzo Ball, Frank Mason III, Kelsey Plum – made appearances and interacted with attendees, helping coach and mentor the youth teams throughout the event.

Feedback from ESPN, Wendy’s and other partners involved stated that they were thrilled with the result of the event – a key barometer for any successful activation. Crowds formed on and around the court while the surrounding interactive engagements garnered steady involvement. The gorgeous downtown Los Angeles setting was picture-perfect, our DJ’s and Emcee executed the program flawlessly, and excitement over that night’s awards show was enhanced by the experience ETZEL created.

Despite all the ‘pats on the back’ and ‘congratulations’, for a reason I couldn’t quite figure out at the time, I began to feel consumed with thinking, “That went really well, but what if?...”,

Later on, I glanced at a 30’ long wall our creative team produced commemorating the late, great John Wooden and it hit me. I was instantly consumed with an astounding feeling of self-satisfaction and relief.

“Success is a peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable,” - John Wooden

For those not familiar, John Wooden is considered by many to be the greatest coach in sports history. While coaching at UCLA, he accumulated a record 10 NCAA Championships, 19 conference titles and achieved the all-time consecutive games win-streak of 88 games. As impressive as those achievements are, the accolades aren’t solely what earned Wooden’s legendary, sports-icon status.

“Don’t ever think for a minute that he was teaching basketball,” former UCLA Bruin and NBA giant Bill Walton once told SUCCESS Magazine. “He never talked about basketball. He talked about life.”

The lesson’s Wooden left us on various subjects will live on for generations to come, as he broached subjects like integrity, competitive-greatness, loyalty, honesty, and more. That collective wisdom attributed to Wooden’s most lasting legacy – The Pyramid of Success. Developed over numerous years, the Pyramid ultimately redefined how not just an athlete can achieve success, but any individual seeking to achieve success in their personal life or in the workplace.

Wooden once confessed that people would ask him if he had lived up to his own model of the Pyramid of Success, “My answer is always the same: No. But I’ve tried.”

At ETZEL, we are always striving for perfection even though no production in our industry has ever or will ever be ‘perfect’. The Fan Jam was no different. We executed an environment that our attendees and partners deemed “successful”, but internally, we identified many areas to be improved for next year. That honest self-reflective characteristic will hopefully lead to us to be constantly hungry and in pursuit of John Wooden’s definition of success.

- Brad Terada, Operations Manager

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