Leadership Lessons from the NBA Finals

I have been a Miami Heat fan for several years. I love to watch Lebron James play and I also love Dewayne Wade. The Heat are a dynamic team, they are flashy and fun to watch.

My wife has been a huge fan of the San Antonio Spurs for many years. Let’s just say it was interesting around our house during the finals! Vickie has been talking trash for weeks and the fact that the Spurs ended up winning against my Heat has created a monster!

As I watched the finals and observed the two teams and various players, I picked up quite a few lessons on leadership:

  1. What you did in the past may not work today (The Heat had the same team, same players and the same coach. That didn’t guarantee success though and in fact, I believe they relied too much on the past instead of changing to impact the future.

  2. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish! They started out really strong in many quarters and it looked like the Heat were going to run away with another championship. It didn’t happen!

  3. You will need more than just emotion to sustain you (emotions were high…it was “win or go home”) but emotion/hype alone will not take you to the finish line.

  4. Individuals play the game but teams win the championship. One thing that is evident about the Spurs is that they play team ball. The focus is really not on any one person, it is a team effort and no-one is trying to be a star. It hurts me to say that as a Heat fan!

  5. You must be willing to change things up and stick to it if it’s working. Lebron James is a power forward for the Heat. They started him at the position of point guard to let him set the tempo and run the offense. It worked 22 -6 in the first quarter and then the Heat went back to Lebron at power forward and well…they lost. Leadership is about embracing change, taking risks and sticking to what works even if it’s uncomfortable.

  6. Unity…the Spurs came together with a common goal – to win the championship. That unity produced sacrifice, a lack of selfishness or self-promotion and discipline.

  7. Humility…the Spurs have a reputation for being humble guys, from their Coach down to the players. I have watched arrogance play a role in many losses through the years and it kills me to say it but maybe it had a small part in the Heat’s loss.

  8. Respect…anyone watching could see the respect the Spurs have for each other and for their coach. I didn’t see pouting, it didn’t appear that one guy was jealous of another guy’s minutes in the game or outstanding play. They celebrated the accomplishments of each other.

  9. Mentorship… There has been a process in place for years with the Spurs organization. David Robinson, 10 time NBA All Star, NBA MVP, 2 time NBA champion, Olympic gold medalist, and Hall of Famer played for the Spurs and he took on the task of mentoring Tim Duncan. Duncan is now a 5 time NBA champion, 3 NBA finals MVP, 2 time NBA MVP, 14 time NBA All Star, and he has broken several NBA records. Duncan would be considered the current superstar of the Spurs but he takes on the responsibility of pouring into the younger players and mentoring them. 

  10. Perseverance…the Spurs lost the championship to the Heat in 2013. It became a mission for them to return this season, play hard and take the championship home to San Antonio. They were unstoppable. Ugh…

Yes, I am a Heat fan. But I will confess it is hard not to like this Spurs team and appreciate them for these qualities that do indeed make them great leaders. I’ll just be glad when my wife stops talking about it and hounding me for the $50 that I owe her!Vickie and tim duncanVickie and Tim Duncan – 2014

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