The Two Most Exciting Words…

The two most exciting words in sports is “Game 7”.  On Thursday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in the 7th game of this year’s NBA Finals.  As I watched the game and listened to the analysis throughout, several leadership principles became apparent that can be learned from when we want to elevate either our personal or team performance. 

  1. Each Game Matters – There has been much said about in-game adjustments.  However, during a 7-game series, there are many adjustments from game-to-game.  After Celtics guard Ray Allen hit a record 8 three pointers during game 2, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson made several defensive adjustments to limit Allen’s opportunities.  Over the next five games, Allen only hit a combined 4 3-pointers in 28 shots and made just 19 of 62 (31%) shots overall.  Leaders, what adjustments are you making to a changing culture or marketplace?
  2. Everyone Matters – Celtics Center Kendrick Perkins was lost to injury in Game 6.  While much is made rightfully so of the Celtics Big 3 and Rondo, Perkins’ rebounding and defense were invaluable ingredients to the team’s success.  His absence from the line-up contributed to the Lakers’ 23 offensive rebounds in the final game.  Leaders, are you aware of the contributions that each team member makes (even the perceived 5th best player) and the impact their absence will have?  
  3. Environments Matter – One thing this series has taught us is that role players perform better at home.  Whether it was Nate Robinson and Glen Davis in Game 4, Shannon Brown in Game 6, or how Ron Artest played at the Staples Center, many players just perform better where they are comfortable and the crowd is behind them.  Leaders, are you creating comfortable environments where your team can succeed?
  4. Effort Matters – Jeff Van Gundy states “Game 7s are about effort adjustments.”  Because of this, memorable performances many times can take place.  It cannot be overstated the amount of desire and effort it took for SG Kobe Bryant to get 15 rebounds in a championship game. “I’m more concerned about getting rebounds and getting the loose balls and stuff like that,” Bryant said. “When push comes to shove, I can always get a bucket.” Leaders, are you setting the example for your team in the area of effort during times it matters most.
  5. Eminence Matters – Superstars show up and legacies are made in big games. While Bryant did not shoot well, he did hit 8 of 9 free throws during the pivotal fourth quarter. As John Maxwell ( teaches in The Law of the Edge, the difference between two evenly matched teams is leadership. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher were the best leaders on the floor. As Mark Jackson said at halftime “I’m betting on greatness.” Leaders, are you GREAT when it matters the most?

As a bonus, the following is a list of additional Game 7 heroic performances:

  • 1957 – Tom Heinson scores 37 points and grabbed 23 rebounds as the Celtics put away the St. Louis Hawks.
  • 1962 – Bill Russell scores 30 points and grabs 40 rebounds as the Celtics beat the Lakers.
  • 1967 – In Red Auerbach’s final game, Russell grabs 32 rebounds against the Celtics.
  • 1970 – In the legendary game where Willis Reed limps onto the court, Walt Frazier is the actual hero as he scores 36 points and hands out 19 assists.
  • 1994 – In contrast, John Starks shoot 2-18 including 0-11 from 3-point range.

Each game matters. Everyone matters. Environment matters. Effort Matters. Eminence Matters. Leaders, for your organization to elevate performance, let’s capture the lessons from this year’s Game 7. How are you doing?


About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

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