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The NBA’s Bubble is Bursting Preconceived Notions about Leadership and Sports – Part 2

By November 13, 2020February 12th, 2021No Comments

“Don’t talk about it, be about it.”— Gloria James, Lebron James’ Mother

We are in a moment of transition, voting out hate and pivoting back toward civility, but also reminded of the value of our non-white community. If it were up to the white vote, Trump would’ve won, but thanks to BIPOC leadership, and particularly Black leadership, we are breathing a little bit easier.

Shortly after the election was called Saturday morning (November 7), former Ohio Governor John Kasich stated that we must listen to the other side. What? Haven’t we learned that white, conservative leadership has continued to steer us in the wrong direction? Profits over anything – human rights, our planet, our safety.

Rewind to last month when we were talking about the NBA, we clearly saw what happens when we let the people, especially community-focused leadership, take control of the conversation. As the NBA bubble progressed, Commissioner Adam Silver took a step back and let the decision making come from a place of mutual growth and consensus. One of the leaders in the conversation has been LeBron James, a role model who has become a champion while maintaining his focus on community the entire time.

A commitment to community was clear in 2018 when James founded the I Promise school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The school deploys a STEM-based curriculum. The school also includes a family resource center with a goal to ensure a stable learning experience at home.

A few years ago Fox News’ anchor Laura Ingragam’s commented “Shut up and dribble” directed toward LeBron James when he spoke out against Trump and racial injustice. His response? To keep pushing forward on projects like More Than an Athlete. An eight-part series about the improbable journey of LeBron James and his three best friends from Akron, Ohio, to a global stage.

James is known for doing things on his own terms, which means challenging previous norms. From his agent to business manager, he is supported by a network of peers. From the way he works behind the scenes to the way he plays on the court, you can see the gears turning as he sees the whole system at play.

His most recent answer to racial inequity is More Than a Vote.

“More than a Vote” was created to give citizens an option to check if they’re registered to vote and a place to sign up to stay informed. If a user only partially fills out a voter registration, they get an automated email encouraging them to finish the process.

“To my brothers and sisters in sports and arts, we have incredible influence in our community. We need to use this moment to demand change. I gotta be honest…I struggle with what to demand because so damn much needs to change. But I’m starting with our right to vote.”

This is just one example of many where we see a collective group, with many opinions, setting those differences aside to come together, think systemically and address the issues at hand. This type of leadership has forced people to listen who might not engage otherwise, invest in the work and set an example for others.

“Hopefully, someday down the line, people will recognize me not only for the way I approached the game of basketball, but the way I approached life as an African-American man.”

On the court LeBron is known for making the players around him better, not just being the best player on the court.

We see him applying this same thinking to his leadership. It’s not about him being the best, it’s about lifting up those around you.

It circles back to what we believe in our work, and how we can move forward together. Understanding “I”, while embracing community “we” and ultimately informing “it” the work. LeBron James has done this clearly. He has embraced his individual impact as an athlete, a leader, someone with access to resources and wealth. He has prioritized his strength as an athlete while always keeping in mind the collective. This has been created through working relationships, and progress with others who are aligned with the same growth mindset. This career long dedication has led to his work both on and off the court. Beyond being an athlete James continues to challenge us as a whole to be better, work better, and push forward the power of collective growth.

Rae Miller, Associate Consultant and Facilitator for Prospera Partners