Rethinking LeBron

Let's play a game.  Let's pretend I offered you a job in South Florida with great weather and no state income tax.  Plus, you will work on the best team in your industry, giving you the opportunity to achieve more than you ever hope to achieve in your current job.  By the way, some of your best friends work there so you get to hang out with them also.  Family aside, would anyone give you a hard time about taking this job? Two weeks ago, I watched LeBron James clean up at the ESPY's.  He won all kinds of awards and was also given the opportunity to present Robin Roberts with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.  He's the best basketball player on the planet, is well liked by his peers, yet fans across the country love to boo him.

Last month, the Miami Heat won their second consecutive NBA Championship and LeBron won his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP Award, an award named for Bill Russell.  He averaged 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2.3 steals and just under a block per game all while the entire country, except for Heat fans, rooted for the San Antonio Spurs.

The team has a large fan base.  However, those that don't root for the Heat, are decidedly against them.  There's no middle ground. And if there is, I haven't heard or seen it.  Since LeBron decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami, he has been a lightening rod for criticism, and vilified in many circles for teaming with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in his quest for domination.  I will not defend the way he handled his decision, or his television special "The Decision", but let's take another look at the decision itself.

The goal of playing any sport is to win.  Anyone who tells you anything different doesn't understand sports.  LeBron was drafted by his hometown team right out of high school and through his immense talent and skill, brought the team to heights it had rarely experienced, including a trip to the NBA Finals.

However, he never won a championship there.  As he approached free agency, the team tried to put the right pieces around him, knowing that he was concerned about winning.  Unfortunately for the fans of Cleveland, they fell short.

Once a free agent, he had the opportunity to play for several teams including the New York Knicks, New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets, and even the Los Angeles Clippers.  He took meetings with each team and listened to their pitches.  When Pat Riley came to meet with LeBron to discuss the Heat, he brought his championship rings with him in a bag and let LeBron check them out.  He told him if he came to Miami, he could have a bag like that someday.  The rings were the reason he said he was “taking my talents to South Beach.” Not the weather. Not the lack of state income tax. Certainly not the money since he took less to go to Miami than he would have received from Cleveland.

The basketball world erupted.  Superstars aren't supposed to team up via free agency, at least in basketball, to create an all-star team.  But how many championships did Michael Jordan win without Scottie Pippen and either Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman?  How many did Larry Bird win without Kevin McHale and Robert Parish?  What about Magic Johnson and Kareem?  And more recently, Kobe Bryant won with Shaq, but then didn't win again until the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol.  The point is, none of these guys were great enough to do it alone.  They all teamed up with other stars to get their rings.

In business, we do the same thing.  We partner with those who can help us win business, execute, or advance or careers.  We encourage people to seek help in an effort to get the job done.  My partner and I came to CBRE because we were convinced the platform give us the opportunity to service our clients better and  take our practice to the next level.  We were right.  And in the industry, no one booed us.

So next time you think about booing LeBron, think about the decision you would have made as a 25 year-old and how you would have handled it.  I hope I would have come to the same decision and also hope I would have handled it better than he did.  Although, I'm not so sure I would have.

JN