Sunday, May 23, 2010

Learning from Lebron

I’m not going to spend an entire post exclusively talking about sports, even though that would be so much fun (i’ve always wished I could blog for ESPN, ha). But something kind of hit me as I was watching the collapse of the cleveland cavaliers in their playoff series against the Boston Celtics. A collapse few saw coming, but when you really begin to think about it, it’s easy to see why it happened.

In case you’re lost, here’s a quick rundown. So the Cavs were favorites to win the NBA title going into the playoffs this year. They have the best player on the planet in Lebron, and, did I mention, they have the best player in the planet? They don’t really have many other marquee guys but that didn’t seem necessary. They had Lebron. Lebron would carry them to the title.

They cruised through the first round, but then the collapse started. They met the Boston Celtics, a tough, veteran, talented team who absolutely crushed them into the ground. I was watching the game at the Farmer’s house, and Andy and I both marveled at the way Boston was simply beating the Cavs at all the fundamentals of the game: desire, teamwork, focus, hustle, leadership. You name it, the Celtics were outshining the Cavs.

Lebron mostly had amazing statistical games during the series (except for one game), including the final game where he had a triple-double. But the problem wasn’t so much with Lebron as it was with the rest of the Cavs team. They looked scared, tentative, even disinterested at times, as if they expected Lebron to make every big-time shot while they spectated.

Shortly after the game I was left trying to figure out how something like this happened. The best team in the NBA loses embarrassingly without even putting up much of a fight. And then I realized, it’s the Lebron effect. The Cavs employed a “we can win it all without really working as a team or being interested in each other because we have Lebron”. And, you could see a little bit of that ego surfacing in Lebron. He didn’t need help. He could carry the Cavs on his own.

The 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers teach us that you can be successful with a one-man show, but you can’t make it through adversity as a team with one guy. Every player on the court is important and needs to do their part. And when one player sees another player who’s disinterested or frustrated, it’s their job to encourage their teammate and get them back on the same page. You can’t do it alone. You’ve got to stick together. These are the kinds of lessons that, while they come from a game, transcend sport and touch the very center of our lives as human beings as well.

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