Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Chang Can Dunk

A Reel Leadership Article

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Chang Can Dunk is a Disney+ exclusive movie about a young Asian-American teen who longs to get the girl, defeat the school bully, and maybe play some basketball. While geared toward the younger crowd, Chang Can Dunk is a fun experience.

Chang (Bloom Li) is a 5’8″ student in high school. His rival and former friend, Matt (Chase Liefeld, son of the legendary comic book artist and my good friend (Rob’s words on his WhatNot stream) Rob Liefeld), are at each other’s throats over basketball and a girl, Kristy (Zoe Renee). Their rivalry becomes real when Chang tells Matt that he will be able to dunk within ten weeks.

Bloom Li as Chang in Chang Can Dunk. Making a dunk.

This is a challenge. He’s short, not very good, and isn’t motivated to do much of anything. Throughout the movie, we’re reminded that Chang doesn’t stick with things.

Will he with this? Watch the movie or read this article to find out.

In this article, you’ll also be presented with the leadership lessons from Chang Can Dunk. I was shocked at how many lessons were in this film and how much I enjoyed it.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Chang Can Dunk

1. Old School Basketball Coach (Jon Shaver):

It may look easy but the slam dunk is rarely used because of its difficulty.

The movie starts with an old-school video. It featured a coach and a basketball player (Christopher Ferguson). He is instructing the basketball player how to slam dunk.

The player performed the dunk. It looked easy.

But the truth was the dunk was a hard move to perform. The player made it look easy because of his practice in perfecting the move.

You’re going to see things that you think look easy. There will be leaders who write books, lead successful companies, and more. Their skill and talents make these tasks appear simple.

They’re not.

These people have practiced and honed their craft. They’ve worked hard. They’ve made mistakes.

All of their work makes the things they do look simple.

The more you work on leadership, the easier it will look to others on the outside. It doesn’t mean it is.

2. Flaky leaders get a bad reputation:

Throughout the movie, Chang commits to various activities. One of those commitments was he agreed to volunteer at the local hospital. It was even his own idea.

Of course, he bailed. He didn’t stick with things.

The people around him began to see him as someone who flakes. His mother, Chen (Mardy Ma), and best friend, Bo (Ben Wang), both notice this and call him out multiple times.

His reputation was tarnished because he didn’t follow through with what he said he would do.

Many leaders have their reputations tarnished because they make commitments, share big dreams, and set out on projects that never are realized.

Be careful with what you commit to doing. You’re putting your reputation on the line. If you continually flake on your commitments, those you lead will have difficulty trusting you.

3. Beware of technical fouls:

During a basketball game, Matt was fouled. The opposing player knew what he did was wrong. However, the referee didn’t call a foul on the player.

Matt began to throw a fit. He complained, pointed, and made a big deal out of the foul.

The referee gave Matt a technical foul. A technical foul is when a player violates certain rules of the game, not usually involving physical contact, but often involving unsportsmanlike actions. Matt’s foul was his bad attitude and pushing the referee to call a foul.

A referee won’t hand us a technical foul, but we may be given technical fouls by those we lead. However, we may never know it.

Technical fouls in leadership could be:

  • Getting upset with an employee
  • Lying to a customer or vendor
  • Showing up late while expecting your employees to be on time (yeah, yeah, you’re the boss, but you’re also the example)
  • Failing to deliver on your word

These things matter. People are watching and noticing. Stop your technical fouls.

4. Chang:

Kobe’s my hero because he saw every obstacle as an opportunity. Every challenge put in front of him, he saw as a way to improve.

Matt had a Kobe Bryant jersey hanging in one of the rooms in his house. Chang and Kristy saw the jersey hanging there. Chang was in awe.

Kristy saw Chang’s awe and asked him what he liked about Kobe. Chang went on a long rant about the positive traits of Kobe.

I agree with Chang. Kobe’s traits were impressive. The ones Chang noticed are the ones we should pick up on.

Leaders need to look at obstacles differently. They’re not something to look at negatively. Instead, obstacles are opportunities to grow and stretch.

So are challenges. The challenges that we face and overcome will grow us. They change us. They make us better.

Are you willing to change your mindset on the challenges and obstacles in front of you?

5. Your number of followers means nothing:

Chang laid out his challenge to Matt. He would learn to dunk in 10 weeks and do it at homecoming. To do this, he would need training.

He sought out all sorts of insane methods. Eventually, he decided he would look to YouTube. There, he found someone local and with skills.

Chang found Deandre (Dexter Darden). He was a former basketball player who plays streetball dressed in cosplay. One of the videos Chang finds is Deandre dressed up as Steve Urkel from Family Matters.

Bo looks at the video. Then looks at Deandre’s channel. He’s pessimistic about Deandre because the channel has less than 1,000 subscribers.


That didn’t stop Chang. Chang saw the potential in being mentored by Deandre, despite follower counts. He knew Deandre had the skills to teach.

We’ve become a world focused on numbers. Especially in the social media world.

I’ve fallen into this trap before. I wanted to chase subscribers, visits, and social media likes. I learned this doesn’t make someone a positive role model, leader, or valuable.

Be careful of looking at vanity metrics to place value on someone. Just because they have lots of followers doesn’t make them great leaders.

It’s what’s inside of them that does.

6. Find creative ways to get the things you want or need:

Deandre asked Chang what he was able to pay. Chang ran into a problem. He had no money, no job, and no way to pay.

Deandre said, “Thanks but no thanks. I need cash.”

This was when Bo stepped in. Bo asked Deandre what he shot his videos on. He pushed a bit more and got more information about his YouTube account.

Bo offered up his services to make Deandre’s channel a success. This way, Bo gets work, Deandre gets to coach, and Chang gets a coach.

We get stuck on the financial side of things. We see dollar signs, or maybe no dollar signs.

There are things we need, services that must be performed, and more. How do we get these things if we don’t have the cash flow to pay for them?

Look for creative solutions. Find out what they need and what you can offer. There may be a way for you to do work for them, and they will do work for you.

Bartering and skill-sharing are invaluable ways of getting things done.

7. Deandre:

Sometimes the play doesn’t go your way. You gotta play through it.

Chang asked Deandre if he had tried out for the League. Deandre said he had. His tryout didn’t go his way.

Still, he had success. He played in Europe, started a YouTube channel, and lived a pretty good life.

Every shot you take in business won’t work out. You’ll have issues arise.

What you can’t do is let those issues stop you. You have to play through your challenges.

8. Faking it won’t get you there:

It was dunk day. The crowds gathered around. The band played. And Chang dunked.

Or did he?

Everyone thought Chang had succeeded at his goal of dunking. The truth was Chang had snuck into the school, changed the height of the backboard, and dunked on the lower rim height.

Uh oh…

When this came to light, people were understandably upset. He had lied, misled them, and faked his way to fame.

There’s an age-old adage of fake it til you make it. I used to believe this, but I’ve changed my mind.

You can’t fake it til you make it. You have to work at it until you make it.

Sure, you’ll feel like a fraud when you make decisions you don’t know what the outcome will be. You may not have all the knowledge or wisdom. What you do have is your experience.

Keep building on the experience. You’ll soon be at a level you never expected, all with your integrity intact.

9. Don’t forget the important relationships in your life:

Chang got to go to ESPN headquarters to celebrate his fake accomplishment. He brought Deandre, Bo, and Kristy with him. After the interview, there was an ESPN party.

The woman at the door let Chang in. She wouldn’t let his friends in. They weren’t on the list.

Chang said he would find someone to let them in. He entered and didn’t return until after the party was finished. He got caught up in the limelight, partying with all the big names.

He forgot his friends.

Chang let his relationships deteriorate. He ignored those who were with him the whole time. His actions toward them weren’t right.

There’s a lot of success advice out there telling you to leave behind those that aren’t at your level or can’t get you to where you want to be. You have to be careful listening to that advice.

When you begin to leave people behind because they’re not making enough money, developing as quickly as you, or some other personal development aspect, you’re leaving behind the people who truly matter. You begin to see people as stepping stones, not as the valuable people they are.

The relationships you had coming up the leadership ladder are just as important as the ones at the top of the ladder. Don’t forget the important relationships in your life.

10. Chang:

You’re miserable. You’re so unhappy you want everyone else to be unhappy too.

Chang and his mother had a strained relationship. They didn’t know how to talk to one another. His mother kept pestering him and pushing him and denigrating him.

Both wanted relationships with one another, but neither knew how to build the relationship. Chang believed, and rightfully so, that his mother was miserable. Her unhappiness was her fault, but she tried to make everyone else unhappy too. This is a problem.

We face this challenge, too. It’s an aspect of hurt people hurt people.

When you’re miserable, you unconsciously try to make other people miserable. It’s an unhealthy way to make yourself feel less alone.

Check yourself when you’re miserable. What are your actions looking like? Are you starting to bring those around you down?

If you are, it’s time for an attitude change. Make sure your attitude and mindset aren’t sabotaging others.

11. Leaders evolve:

Chang Can Dunk showed Chang evolving throughout the movie. Chang started out as a sweet, awkward kid. He then became manipulative and a jerk. Finally, Chang found his true identity.

We find ourselves going through a similar evolutionary process. We may start off as sweet, innocent, and unaware. As we begin to find success, we become cocky. Eventually, we realize that we’ve changed in an unhealthy way. So, we start to work on becoming the right kind of leader.

Beware of the way you’re evolving and changing. Make sure you’re changing in positive ways.

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