LeBron James

The power of the determined player

I don’t normally watch NBA basketball, but the NBA Finals game capped off a great Father’s Day, watching the best players in the world perform on the biggest stage. Anyone who has ever coached knows the importance of having great players. I feel certain someone could describe the coaching strategies that were involved in Game 7, but for my money, what I saw was the best players giving it their all down the stretch.

I kept chuckling every time the announcer, Jeff Van Gundy, suggested the Cavs should “get into what they are doing sooner”. What they were doing was getting the ball to either LeBron or Kyrie, and everyone else was getting out of the way! Getting the ball to your best player and getting everyone else out of the way doesn’t always work, but it works most of the time. Especially if your best player is better than the opposing team’s best player.

Many years ago, I sat in a team meeting where Coach Smith explained that Phil Ford was allowed to take shots the rest of us were not allowed to take. It was always quiet when Coach Smith spoke, but it became almost eerily quiet during this meeting. Coach explained his reasons and offered to meet with anyone who needed further explanation. I certainly did not need any additional information, and I don’t remember anyone else making the office visit to ask Coach Smith to explain in more detail.

I don’t intend to say that coaching does not matter. It most certainly does. However, it is not always Xs and Os. The trust and respect your players have for you as the coach is really more important than the strategy. There is an old saying that I have seen play out over the years: “First half on emotion, second half on talent!”

So what can we share with our players regarding this game? I suggest not spending much time dissecting Kyrie’s fadeaway three to take the lead. That was a great player making a play that can’t be taught. I do suggest you show them the block LeBron made to save a breakaway layup. Watch the film and see where he starts when the Warriors start the break. He is almost at the baseline and sprints to the other end to make the play. The block is not teachable, but his determined effort and desire to help his teammates is certainly a shareable lesson. Your players will want to talk about how high he got up, but as coaches we need to show why he was able to block the shot. Sprinting back and not giving up on the play is teachable — everyone can sprint back!

Coaching is never easy, but when your best player also gives the most effort, your other players will know why you provide them extra leeway during crucial times. Phil Ford earned the right to take shots the rest of us could not. In this game, LeBron showed all of us the keys to success. LeBron and Kyrie demonstrated how every team needs both talent and effort. As a coach, sometimes we just need to let them play. Trust works both ways.