“It is better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” (Abe Lincoln)
“If the mailman stopped to kick every dog that barked at him, he’d never deliver the mail.” (Roy Williams, Hall of Fame Basketball Coach)
My 7-year old son was mad yesterday. He was carrying on in a way that many of us have seen before when a young child is really tired and is not getting his way.
“Let’s go home and take a nap”, I said.
“No! I am not tired”, Jaylen said.
“Well you are being very crabby right now”, I replied.
“I am NOT crabby”, he said followed by a big hrmmph sound, a pooched lip and the crossing of his arms.
“You are acting like a baby”, I said.
“I AM NOT A BABY. STOP TALKING TO ME!”, he said in a whiny voice that we can all picture.
Jaylen’s responses essentially proved that I was right.
Unfortunately, we just recently saw this kind of situation arise in the NBA. This situation provides us with an example of what leadership is not. Leadership is not responding to every critic in a way that may lower ourselves to their standards.
Hall of Fame basketball player and current analyst on TNT, Charles Barkley said some things about Lebron James. James then fired back with comments that essentially proved that Barkley’s comments may not have been too far off.
According to NBA.com . . .
The long-distance exchange started last week, when Barkley said during TNT’s “Inside the NBA” that James was being “whiny” for saying the Cavaliers needed to add a playmaker at the same time Cleveland had the highest payroll in the league.
“Inappropriate,” Barkley said at the time. “Whiny. All of the above. The Cleveland Cavaliers, they have given him everything he wanted. They have the highest payroll in NBA history. He wanted J.R. Smith last summer, they paid him. He wanted (Iman) Shumpert last summer. They brought in Kyle Korver. He’s (LeBron) the best player in the world. Does he want all of the good players? He don’t want to compete? He is an amazing player. They’re the defending champs.”
Lebron then went nuclear on Barkley . . .
“He’s a hater. What makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV? I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that. I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying. All I’ve done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that.”
The defending champs went 7-8 during the month of January. Remember that what started this most recent exchange was Lebron publicly criticizing the Cavs ownership for not having better players. This is not just a slam on management but also a slam on his current teammates – the teammates that just helped him win a NBA Championship.
First, Lebron needs to keep things private. True he might have never gotten in trouble in his fourteen years but he has openly criticized numerous teammates and gotten two winning coaches fired. These are not positive leadership qualities. A leader is more concerned about making things better not getting their own way. A leader is not whiny.
Secondly, Lebron should have reacted to Barkley in this way . . .
“Charles is an entertaining TV personality. I respect what he did on-the-court. I don’t agree with what he said but I am going to do all that I can to make sure that nobody has any reason to believe him when it comes to his comments about me. Our team has had a rough patch lately but I am going to be the best teammate that I can be to help us get back on the right track. The best way to improve the team is to improve myself.”
That might sound Kumbaya-ish but why can’t we take the high road for once as athletes or coaches. Why can’t we rise above the negativity? We don’t have to always fight fire with fire.
At the end of the day, if Lebron is worrying about the comments by TV analysts or writers or twits on social media, then how much is he concentrating on helping the Cavs win back-to-back championships? One of my favorite quotes of all-time says,
“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal”
We all have critics. We will all have something unfair said of us at some point in our lives. Leaders do two things with this. First, they do all that they can to make sure that nothing bad can be said of them. Secondly, they focus on the goal and what’s most important.
When you react negatively to things like Lebron did, then you give power to the other person or situation. I had a student-athlete once that got suspended from school because he punched a kid that had baited him. The other kid was just a mouthy punk but the athlete couldn’t play games for the next couple of weeks. Every one knew that the kid was mouthy. Everyone knew that the athlete was tougher. Now they knew that he also had no self-control.
A mailman’s goal is to deliver mail to the right address, not to pick fights with barking dogs. Lebron’s goal should be to lead the 15 guys on his team, not be concerned about outside distractions from people that don’t matter to the Cavs’ goals.