In 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA Championship, marking the first time in 52 years the city won a major sports championship. In those 2016 NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves down 3-1, one game away from losing the series to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Looking at the sheer optics of the 3-1 deficit, you would not expect the Cavs to be more inspired than Golden State at that moment. But to the surprise of many, they were.
Where did this jolt of inspiration while facing near-certain elimination come from? It came from Cleveland Cavaliers team captain Lebron James. Former Cavs player Kevin Love told the story of Warriors SG, Klay Thompson after Golden State took a commanding 3-1 series lead. Thompson talked about the Golden State Warriors being the single greatest NBA team of all time and even discussing their championship parade, despite the series not being officially over. Lebron James used that as motivation to propel his team to become only the 2nd team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit. Below is a quote from Lebron’s former Cavs teammate Kevin Love:
“That’s when Bron said, he looked around and said, ‘You know what guys? It’s written. We’re going to win tomorrow night. We’re going to have a huge game. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to come down to the last few minutes. We’re not losing at home. Game 7, anything can happen.’ That’s how it played out. It still gives me chills thinking about it.”
Top NFL Quarterbacks Do Things Differently
In the NFL, the quarterback position is most critical to the team’s overall success. Tom Brady is already working with his WRs, one week removed from his 7th Super Bowl victory. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers in a pre-game prayer, blames his shoulder when others make mistakes, and never praises himself, only others. Or how about Russell Wilson? Off the field, Wilson has gone to Seattle Children’s Hospital every Tuesday since he was a rookie with the Seahawks.
Leadership On and Off the Ice
In the NHL, Calgary Flames defensemen Matt Giordano partnered with the Calgary Board of Education, launching his physical fitness, leadership in sports, and academics program, Team Giordano. Calgary launched Giordano’s program at five underprivileged schools that needed help. Giordano’s efforts to date have raised $400,000 and made a massive difference in the lives of nearly 3,000 students.
The leadership stories of Tom Brady, Lebron James, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Giordano, and Russell Wilson are all different, spanning across three major American team sports. There is, however, one key thing these stories all have in common. This one singular thing has to lead to more success in the sports and business world than anything that has been or ever can be. It’s the difference between just being great yourself vs. being great AND making others around you great. This one common attribute is LEADERSHIP. And when you examine these five men in detail, all five have made their teammates better in numerous ways, on and off the field/ice/court.
Furthermore, all five of these athletes have a reputation for elevating those around them, and we shouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
Leadership, whether we are talking business leadership or leadership in sports, all have four key attributes:
- Willingness to serve others
- Going the extra mile
- Being an example
- How you respond to various situations, in good times and bad.
When you look at leadership in sports and these four attributes, they encompass the work done by these four sportsmen. Their teammates follow them on and off the field at a much higher level than we are accustomed to seeing. These five sportsmen seem to have a “magic touch” for elevating other players around them. One can argue this merely because of their greatness, but do remember this one truth; Their greatness is a byproduct of their physical ability and ability to show not only leadership in sports but in all facets of life.