January 23, 2023

How the LA Lakers won NBA Championship with 1% improvements using the Career Best Effort (CBE) system

After a dismal 1986 season, coach Pat Riley instituted a system he called the Career Best Effort (CBE). The underlying principle was to review each player's growth by comparing the numbers to the previous year. Similar to the aggregation of marginal gains with the British Cycling team, the goal was to get slightly better everyday.

With CBE, each player got credit for making a positive effort in the game spiritually, mentally and physically – diving for loose balls, going after rebounds etc.

As an example, let’s say that Magic Johnson—the Lakers star player at the time—had 11 points, 8 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 steals, and 5 turnovers in a game. Magic also got credit for an “unsung hero” deed by diving after a loose ball (+1). Finally, he played a total of 33 minutes in this imaginary game.

The positive numbers (11 + 8 + 12 + 2 + 1) add up to 34. Then, we subtract the 5 turnovers (34–5) to get 29. Finally, we divide 29 by 33 minutes played. 29/33 = 0.879. Magic’s CBE number here would be 879.

Solid, reliable players generally rated a score in the 600s, while elite players scored at least 800. Magic Johnson, who submitted 138 triple-doubles in his career, often scored over 1,000.


  • Atomic Habits (James Clear), Chapter 20: The Downside of Creating Good Habits