“It’s the Grit Squad we have,’’ James said. “It’s not cute at all. If you’re looking for us to play sexy, cute basketball, it’s not us. Nothing comes easy.’’ NYPost
We’re 3 games into the NBA finals and the Cleveland Cavaliers are up 2 to 1 over the Golden State Warriors. Clevelanders are guarding their excitement. It’s never over until it’s over.
But something is different. It was so clear last night…even to an inconsistent sports fan who has trouble staying up past 10pm.
Lebron is physically awesome. He is a great player. Under these circumstances (minus Irving, minus Love, carrying the weight of generations of hope in this town), for a player even as great as Lebron to single-handedly win these finals would be impossible. But that’s not what’s happening.
What was clear in his actions, the playing of others, and his post-game comments was his leadership, inclusion, empowerment, and yes, even empathy. Empathy for the other team. What?!
Lebron doesn’t rush across the court. He moves deliberately, scanning, taking in all the players on his team and the opposing team. He decides the best play with all of that information, calls it, and moves in. As good a player as he is, Lebron’s plan doesn’t always end with himself getting the shot and the glory.
Mathew Dellavedova’s incredible performance was inspired. The guy seemed to come from nowhere but carried so much of last night’s game. He knew he was needed. Cleveland fans are legendary and the sound in the arena must have been deafening, but even cheering at that level can’t catalyze what we saw him do. Credit goes to Lebron for seeing Dellavedova’s grit and resolve and empowering him, as well as the others on his team. And color lines are irrelevant, as they should be. That’s inclusion. Lebron even asked the crowd to take it down a notch during foul shots, because he knew what his teammates needed to get the job done. He’s leading us too.
Empathy for the competition? Yes. There was a turning point in the 4th quarter when Lebron stole the ball in the middle of a Golden State play. What he said to his teammates was, “I saw it.” He knew what they were about to do. He was “in their shoes,” and this is no small part of his talent.
Lebron James is leader – empathetic, inclusive, incredibly capable and focused all at the same time. Highly-paid CEO’s would do well to take note; Lebron is earning his keep through his positive impact on our psyche and ultimately our economy. It’s been a journey for this native son of Northeast Ohio and for us, his fans. He left us a great player. He’s come back a leader. No matter what happens next, that much is clear.
Thanks to John Lemay – Clevelander, unwavering fan, and my husband – for patiently teaching me and our children to appreciate all that sports have to offer.