While it doesn’t exactly relate directly to trading, after seeing LeBron James’ reaction to the Heat losing the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks I wanted to take a moment to comment.
LeBron is built like a Greek God and has all of the physical abilities in the world, but he lacks the heart and humility of a champion. For most of the playoffs, LeBron embraced the role of leader and closer for the new Miami Heat juggernaut, but when the lights shone the brightest, his star dimmed. I thought his post-game comments provided a telling glimpse into LeBron’s head, and why he just doesn’t get it.
When repeatedly asked if he cares about media and public perception of him, he says “no, I only care about winning games for my teammates.” If that were the case, then why would you carve out an hour-long primetime special on ESPN to announce that you were “taking your talents to South Beach”? The fact of the matter is that LeBron loves him some LeBron. As soon as the ball doesn’t bounce his way and critics and teammates alike start demanding more, he “checks out”, as Mavericks F Deshawn Stevenson said after Game 4. In Game 6, in the fourth quarter he refused to take open looks because he didn’t want to be the fall guy.
The most telling part of his postgame comments, however, are below.
“All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point.”
I found LeBron’s comments–not to mention his mocking of Dirk Nowitzki’s illness before Game 5–to be arrogant and condescending. See, LeBron thinks he is better than everyone else. His whole life he has been worshiped by those around him, from being on the cover of Sports Illustrated in High School, to being the number 1 pick in the NBA Draft, to being deified in his quasi-hometown of Cleveland. I took his comments personally, and I’m sure those in a less desirable situation than I reacted ever more so. To me, he was basically saying, “I’m a millionaire, I’m a superstar, and that is enough for me. You have credit card debt, can’t pay your bills, facing foreclosure on your home, and have to live with your pitiful life.”
In life, in sports, and in trading it takes being truly humbled to become great. Among several motivating factors revealed in his Hall of Fame induction speech, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and was criticized early in his NBA career as he fell short in the playoffs. He wasn’t the most heralded recruit out of high school, and used those humbling experiences as motivation. Every great trader at some point early in his or her career suffered humbling losses that tested their fortitude. Up to this point, LeBron has had excuses. In Cleveland he didn’t have a supporting cast. Well, all those excuses went out the window when he made that infamous “decision”. He made this bed for himself, he heaped all of the pressure on himself, and now he has to live with it.
I was confident that the Mavericks would win this series because they had been humbled before, in 2006 against the same Miami Heat. They knew what it felt like to be on top of the world–up 2-0 in the series and double digits in the 4th quarter of Game 3–and see it all ripped away from you. This Heat team thought they were invincible after cruising through the Celtics and Bulls in the Eastern Conference, and avoiding the vaunted Lakers.
Now let’s see if LeBron becomes a changed man after this humbling experience. Now that everyone expects him to be a chump, he can carry himself in a more dignified manner and raise his game to the upper echelon. For traders, take not of this lesson. Everyone can have a great month or a great year, but to be truly great you have to be always humble. The market and the basketball Gods are more powerful than you, always remember that.
By: Scott Redler and John Darsie
Disclosure: No relevant position