There were three defining moments in the leadership of LeBron James last week.  The first came between the third and fourth quarters of Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Cleveland (see highlights above).  The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported here James told teammates and coaches, “You all get stops and follow me.”

What followed were 18 consecutive points by James, an alley-oop pass for a dunk to Tristan Thompson, and an iconic block of Steph Curry’s layup attempt followed by some rare trash talk.  This was all part of his 41 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals, and three blocks performance shown above.

Teammate Richard Jefferson said, “Not many people in the history of sports have said, ‘Everyone get on my back.’  The city, state, organization, team … ‘Get on my back. If we win or fail, I’ll take the blame – but I’m going to lead you.’ How many people have ever said that? I can’t think of too many players who have put that type of pressure on themselves and then have delivered more times than not. And he embraces it …That’s a pressure that I know I couldn’t personally handle.”

There are four takeaways from these two comments:
  1. Leadership Comes With A Microphone – This is a statement often made by my friend Jeff Henderson, Pastor of Gwinnett Church.  There comes a time in every leader’s life when they must stand up and proclaim, “This is where we are going!  Follow me!”
  2. James Carries More Pressure Than Any Leader In Sports – No other athlete is responsible for such a large part of the GNP of an entire region.  It is estimated James is worth over $1 billion in value to Cleveland-area businesses.
  3. James Takes Full Responsibility For The Team’s Success – Many leaders shy away from the big moment but James fully embraces such challenges.
  4. And After Taking Full Responsibility, James Delivers Superior Results

Which leads us to James’s second defining moment.  His Game 7 performance and specifically, game-saving block of Andre Iguodala’s fourth quarter layup attempt.

All James did in Game 7 was score 27 points, have 11 rebounds, 11 assists, three blocks (more on this later), and two steals as he led the Cavaliers to a 93-89 victory for his third NBA championship.  See the video below.

Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins recapped Game 7 and James’s performance in its June 27th edition.  The following are 8 additional Apex Leadership Quotes And Lessons I gleaned from the article:
  1. Apex Leaders Have A Grand Vision – James said, “Every night this is what I dreamed.  Two years ago in Las Vegas, I  had this vision.  I never stopped having it.”
  2. Apex Leaders Perform Best When They Remove Clutter From Their Mind And Lives – Longtime friend and business associate Maverick Carter told James two months ago, “You get paid a lot of money to do something you’re better at than anybody in the world.  So just do that.  Don’t worry about this guy or that guy or what anybody else is doing.  Just play.”
  3. Like Many Apex Leaders, James Has A HUGE Chip On His Shoulder – He said, “I think people forget sometimes.  I think they forget what I’ve done, and how long I’ve done it, and they doubt me for some reason.  I’ve felt that way for a long time.”
  4. Apex Leaders Make Everyone Around Them Better – As the team was flying to Game 5 in Golden State, teammates circled around James’s iPad as he watched video from Game 4.  They all began making suggestions about how to improve their individual performance.
  5. Apex Leaders Are Not Passive.  Apex Leaders Engage The Issue. – James thought, “He (Iguodala) is about to get a layup.  I have to chase him down.”
  6. Apex Leaders Give EVERYTHING They Have To Those They Serve – Malcolm Mancias, one of the team’s trainers, said, “That play was everything he had left.”
  7. Apex Leaders Have A Large Platform.  But Their Home City, School Or Church Has A Special Place In Their Heart. – When asked how this compared to James’s first two championships, he said, “This is different.  This is home.”
  8. Apex Leaders Are Rewarded With Great Respect And Admiration – Kyrie Irving said, “I watched Beethoven tonight.”  Assistant coach Larry Drew said, “There’s a king in the house.”  Teammate Jordan McRae gave his opinion on the greatness of James, “The best ever to do it.”

LeBron James Victory Parade Celebration

After winning the championship, we experienced the third defining moment in the leadership of LeBron James.  An estimated 1.3 million long-suffering Cleveland fans attended the downtown victory parade.  As much as it pains me to say this, I was shocked and extremely disappointed in James’s platform speech.

Overshadowing the many good things he said, James cursed repeatedly in his no-filtered address to the millions watching live and on television.  The worst part were several variations of the F-word continually used.

Frankly LeBron, you are better than that.  You are smarter than that.  You understand the moment better than anyone.  We have come to expect far more from you than this.  Previously you have done nothing but show the utmost class and dignity.  While you were an impeccable leader on the basketball court, you were a terrible leader on the championship podium.

Just common decency would tell you there are women and children in the crowd.  You showed no respect for either.  You gave the entire region everything you had physically.  Unfortunately, you then gave them little to no respect.  Many readers may disagree but the fact is out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

As leaders, we have all made mistakes and said things we later regretted.  I hope when LeBron is back on the the championship platform, and he most certainly will be, he will have improved as much with his verbal conduct as he has with his low-post offense over the years.

LeBron, once again, you are better than that.  Or maybe you’re not.  We will find out soon enough.

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