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Sean Marks biggest achievement? Not what you think

Tall Black Sean Marks thanks the crowd as he leave Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images

In a podcast Thursday on Sky Sport New Zealand, Sean Marks, the first Kiwi to play in the NBA, reveals that “everyone that comes through Brooklyn” gets a copy of a book that he sees as a good guide for sports and life. It has little to do with basketball but everything do with his view of sports culture.

“I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do but everyone that comes through Brooklyn gets a copy of Legacy and I say read this and get back to me on it,” said the Nets GM. “It’s amazing the feedback I get from people which speaks volumes for the impact the All Blacks have had around the world.”

What’s Legacy? Its full title is Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership by James Kerr — What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life. And who are the “All Blacks?” New Zealand’s national rugby team, one of the country’s long list of over-achieving national teams named for their uniform color. The message of the book is, at its core, “The strength of the wolf is the pack, the strength of the pack is the wolf.”

“That epitomizes a player-led and player-driven culture, where there’s no hierarchy and everybody holds each other accountable. I’m not sure that translates directly to pro sports [in the US], because there’s nothing quite like wearing the All Blacks jersey for your country. That’s special.”

Indeed, by some measures, the All Blacks rugby team, is the most successful sports team over the past 100 years, winning 75 percent of its games. During his time playing for New Zealand’s national team (nicknamed The Tall Blacks), Marks helped translate some of that success onto the basketball court.

The Nets GM played for New Zealand’s national basketball team in two Olympics and a surprising fourth place finish in the 2002 FIBA World Championships in Indianapolis, two spots ahead of Team USA.

Surprisingly, the two-time NBA champion —once as a player, once as an assistant coach— calls his time wearing the all black national team uniform the highlight of his career.

“Going out for the Olympic ceremonies, whether in Sydney or Athens, and to do it with the group we did – we had grown up together, we’d played in the same age-groups in New Zealand – that was special to go through that with that group,” said Marks, a native of Auckland, the country’s capital.

“That’s the jersey that’s framed downstairs – the New Zealand jersey. Those were such special times. And to experience the Olympic village, that was just remarkable.”

That experience, Marks told SkySports Jeff Wilson, who played rugby and cricket for the All Blacks, helped him both as a player and now a team executive.

“I’m sure it’s the same when you look back at great All Blacks teams, the ones that maximized their talent, maybe even over-achieved … those were the ones that had a special bond off the court or field.

“You could talk to each in a certain manner on the field, there were expectations there … ‘hell, I don’t want to let the guy down beside me’, let alone yourself. You can’t fake that, and that’s got to come with time, with experiences that happen when those bonds are really formed.”

Marks is indeed recruiting Steven Adams of the Thunder to play for the national team, believing that he could encourage other young athletes in New Zealand. He’s said they talk regularly about the prospect.

“I’ve always said if I can do it and if Steven Adams can do it, why can’t another Kiwi kid come over here and realise their dreams? But you have to want to do it. This has to be your be-all and end-all. There was nothing that was going to get in my way of getting to college and once that goal was checked off there was nothing going to stop me making the NBA. You have to have that type of determination, grit and passion.”