How Pat Riley Got LeBron James

On Thursday July 8th LeBron James made his now infamous “decision” to join the Miami Heat live on ESPN.  For a recap of that evening, click here.  While it is widely believed that James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade conspired and collectively formed the Miami New World Order, a recent article by Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated uncovers that Heat president Pat Riley was instrumental in the recruitment of James

We all want to acquire top talent to our organizations.  The following are seven lessons we can take from Riley’s acquisition of James as we recruit potential new members.

  1. Understand The Times – The 1992 USA Dream Team changed the way superstar NBA players interacted with each other.  Gone were the blood feuds of Bird-Magic and Jordan-Thomas.  Ushered in was now a collective conscience fueled by globalization of the game with the help of visionary agents like David Falk.  Now fast forward 18 years and we have a new generation of players reared on AAU competition where summertime relationships trump your high school experience.   The Miami Heat, in essence, became the first NBA AAU team.
  2. Change With The Times – Thomsen pointed out that Riley “as a coach used to famously scold his players for fraternizing with opponents.”  Today’s players are different and Riley knew how to leverage that.  Leaders, are you noticing shifting attitudes amongst potential team members and are making the appropriate adjustments?
  3. Relationships Over Reputation – Today’s young athletes have replaced a win-at-all cost attitude with tribalization and one that wants to win but in the context of community.
  4. The Power Of Networks – Riley developed relationships the confidants of many of this year’s free agent class.  In addition, Henry Thomas, who represents Bosh and Wade, joined the management team of LeBron’s agent at CAA Sports.  Finally, Riley maintained a great relationship with his star player, Wade, who was a continual source of information.  Leaders, are you creating, maintaining, and leveraging networks? 
  5. Finding Success In The Success Of Others – LeBron James associates himself more with Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson than Michael Jordan.  James is the unique athlete who finds success by making those closest to him successful.  Leaders, when recruiting a star player, do you know what motivates him/her?
  6. The Main Thing Is The Main Thing – During his initial meetings with James, Riley threw a bag of 21 championship rings in front of him and asked him to try one on.  Leaders, do you count what counts?
  7. The Journey Looks Different – We like the long, hard struggle that requires perseverance.  This is why many have a problem with James.  He seems to have short cut the process.  What this AAU/NWO approach has taught us is that we need to redefine the journey.  The journey still requires sacrifice, sweat equity, the right mix of front office, injuries, scheduling, etc…  But the journey athletes are on today is paved by relationships.  If you are not creating relational connections with top people, you will neither attract nor retain them.

Understanding and simultaneously changing with the times, relationships, networking, success re-defined, counting what counts, and taking a different journey that leads to the same championship destination.  Pat Riley has taught us a lot about recruiting top people to our organizations.  Tell us what is working for you.

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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.

5 Responses to “How Pat Riley Got LeBron James”

  1. Generally I do not post on sites, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do it! Thanks, very good site.

  2. Intresting facts, are you sure?


  1. 15 Leadership Quotes And Principles From LeBron James Supporting Cast « Brian Dodd On Leadership - 10/29/2010

    […] the Miami Heat acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh, who joined team leader Dwayne Wade, they became the favorites to win this […]

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