Business Lessons from the 2016 NBA Finals

I love the game of basketball. In the beginning of the playoff season, I had two wishes. First, there would be a game 7 in the finals. My second wish was that the Cleveland Cavaliers win it all the way.

Both of them came true!

Why would I want the NBA Finals to go all 7 games?

Any team can thrive and make poster worthy plays when leading by a landslide. But the when a game is on the line, you see the real deal. Either both teams put everything they have on the hardwood or one throws in the towel. Thank goodness both teams made the series worthwhile. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, a tight game allows you to see how players work under pressure, figure out ways to navigate the court without foul trouble, bad calls, and missed plays.

Not to take anything away from the Warriors because they gave it everything they got and in the semi-finals, they overcame a deficit and beat the OKC Thunder. When Golden State overcame the odds, many NBA fans concluded that the team was on their way to clinching the title.

What the NBA Finals taught us about business:

  • Make Adjustments: Business is about learning and growing. Last year was Cleveland’s first time back to the finals since the devastating sweep by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. Not only that but the team had to get used to the return of LeBron James, a new coach, and the addition of Bob Love. The loss of the finals last year allowed the organization to reflect, restructure, and re-engineer. This season they gained a new coach, traded old players, acquired new players, and both Kyrie Irving and Bob Love weren’t injured, unlike the last season. Also, play adjustments were made; since Golden State has the speed and good offensive play, the Cavaliers had the physicality and good defense. Plays were adjusted and they used their strengths to their advantage.
    Overcome Adversity: The head coach of the Cavaliers, Tyronn Lue was the Los Angeles Lakers guard who got stepped over by Allen Iverson in game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals. He went on to win two championships and furthered his career being an assistant coach for a couple teams before landing job as head coach for the Cavaliers. Now he has another ring but this time as a coach!
    Numbers don’t lie: As much as many fans threw around the words “cheating”, “rigged”, and “game fixing” the numbers don’t lie. Statistics in sports are calculated in real time and statisticians have to follow regulations of the American Statistic Association. I don’t think anyone loves a ball player or game that much to not only lose their job but face prison time.
    Maximize Opportunity: LBJ is the player that most people hate (even though in my opinion it’s extreme considering most of us only know of him) but he’s a genius when it comes to branding and making money. I bet millions watched the game and thousands attended Oracle Area wanting to see him lose to the defending champs a second time in a row. Say what you want but because of being the “most hated player in the league”, the ratings were high, the tickets sell went through the roof, and he’s crying to the bank!
    Be Consistent: There’s a quote, “Success is the sum of efforts made daily.” In order to be successful, you have to work at goals even if things seem impossible. When Golden State had the 3-1 advantage, many fans assumed it was a wrap but the Cavaliers believed that they could win. There are times in business where your competitors are dominating the marketplace but if you know your audience, the value of your goods/service and the brand awareness, your business will be able to stand the test of time. Every business reaches a crossroad but choosing the path to cross is what matters.
    Nice and Business don’t Mix Well: Beyonce could’ve said it a better way in one of her earlier interviews. In one game LBJ yelled at Bob Love for an inappropriate play that was made. In business depending on the type of error made, you can lose money. When you know what it takes to succeed you have to hold others accountable.
    The path is never straight and narrow: Many people go into business, set goals, and think the way to achieve them is clear and straight. Sometimes in business, you take falls, backward steps, forward steps, detours, jumps, and leaps. At first, the chance of Cleveland breaking the 52-year drought seemed impossible and then something shift, the opportunity presented itself and they took advantage.
    Address issues that don’t directly relate to the business: There were many opinions about the suspension of Draymond Green but the bottom line is there has to be accountability for actions. As a business owner, you might have to terminate an employee that was a good worker but their practices didn’t align with the company’s vision. Your business has to be protected at all cost, including making those hard decisions.
    • Show a Human Side: At the end of game 7, James, Lue, Smith, and several of the teammates shed tears, gave testimonials at the press conference, acknowledged God, and expressed gratitude. In business, it’s ok to show compassion and tell your story of humble beginnings. Sharing your struggle gives hope to those who are walking in the same shoes you once did.
  • Prepare for your Season: When James returned home, his goal was to bring a championship back home. Two years later it happened. His teammate Richard Jefferson had two opportunities in 2002 and 2003 when the New Jersey Nets were in the finals. Unfortunately they came up empty handed. Thirteen years later he has a ring! When you give it your all rather you are being noticed or overlooked, your time will come. Every season isn’t going to bring you a harvest but in the meantime you prepare so that when it’s your season, you will be prepared.
  • Gain Necessary Tools: When James went to Miami, many fans from Ohio felt betrayed but he had a desire to win a championship and besides he never said he would retire a Cavalier. When he went to Miami, he gained skills, developed as a player, learned to support D. Wade instead of carrying an entire team on his back. Once he acquired the tools he needed, he was able to bring them back to Cleveland and make contract demands. In business, there are times where you have to go outside of your organization in order to grow. It may be through networking, attending conferences, forming partnerships, or gaining investors.

What did you gain from this post? Please share your thoughts below.

Carriece Jefferson


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