Why Kevin Durant’s Decision Was a No-Brainer

Photo: Sporting News

Photo: Sporting News

Imagine if you received national condemnation for leaving the company you were with since college because you found a better opportunity for personal and career growth. You put your heart and soul into your first job, strived to do as much for the company as you could, and almost reached the pinnacle of your profession at that company.

But then, an opportunity arose at another company; one which may have even been a competitor. They offered you a chance to grow in your profession and perhaps a greater chance of reaching that career milestone that seemingly all great professionals in your industry are measured against. Why wouldn’t you take it?

That’s what NBA superstar Kevin Durant did. On Monday, July 4, he decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder (previously Seattle Supersonics); a team without a title in 37 years and just one conference championship since, in 2012. He opted to join the Golden State Warriors; a team that is a year removed from an NBA title and just a month removed from achieving the most wins in NBA regular season history. But people are upset.

People like ESPN sports personality Stephen A. Smith, who is paid to flamboyantly criticize others. Grown men in Oklahoma City are taking to burning their Kevin Durant basketball jerseys (sounds like bigger issues may be at play there). Other teams and fans are complaining that the “rich are getting richer.”

But how can you blame Kevin Durant?

Inevitably, all arguments about sports’ greatest players come down to “How many rings (aka championships) do they have?” It’s never, “Well they are the greatest because they never left their first team and they almost won it all one year.” Sometimes you give it all you got and it’s not enough in some situations. Just ask the Buffalo Bills teams from the early 1990s.

An athlete’s career is much shorter than us office warriors; their time to reach this type of opportunity far more limited. In any work environment, one should do the best they can and do all they can, not just from a personal development standpoint, but for the benefit of the organization. Sometimes there’s only so much an individual can do in that position as well. When you’ve maxed out the opportunity, it may benefit both employee and employer to look for a new fit.

So what communications lesson can be learned from this announcement? Maybe just one: It’s a shame on a day when the country is celebrating its independence – noted by leaving its original situation and moving to a newer and better opportunity – that many also took the chance to denounce someone for doing just that.

Lead Like LeBron

LeBron

More than two years ago, LeBron James returned to Cleveland. With it, the entire state of Ohio was placed on the broad shoulders of his 6’8”, 260-pound frame, more than 50 years of championship baggage from every local team dragging behind him, and one goal looming overhead: bring a championship back to Cleveland.

On the night of Sunday, June 19, 2016, weight was lifted, curses reversed, and the goal reached, with more than 30 million people watching. He led his team as the first to come back from a three-games-to-one deficit and win the title. He led his team to defeat an opponent that won more games in the regular season than any team in history. And he led his team – and the other team – in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks in the seven-game finals, on his way to MVP honors.

This was James’ sixth straight appearance in the NBA Finals and seventh overall. He won twice with Miami, lost twice with Miami, and lost twice with Cleveland. It is common for pundits to wonder which road – through which team – another team must beat to win the title. Perhaps the answer has been there all along…the road to the Finals has been running through James.

And he has been running toward his ultimate goal: returning a trophy to his hometown. James did it in spectacular fashion with efforts like this, which will simply be known as “The Block:”

James has gone through a maturation process before our eyes from a high-profile high schooler, to making a misstep in announcing his departure for Miami,* to an older, more humble, and perhaps wiser man returning to Cleveland. While neither you nor I can run, jump, shoot, or defy gravity like LeBron James, we can do one thing like him: learn to lead. Here are three lessons he’s provided:

  1. Believe in Yourself and Those Assembled around You. While everyone may not be as talented as the main player or the CEO, each person brings something different to the team, while all work toward the same goal. Historically, it was easy to doubt the Cavaliers as no other team had come back from such a deficit. James helped his team, and city, believe the seemingly impossible. And now they do…with a new trophy in hand.
  1. Focus on Today before Worrying about Tomorrow. Do you know how you climb a mountain? Easy: one step at a time. The Cavaliers couldn’t win three games in one night. Not even two. To achieve such a comeback, they needed to only win Game 5. And then Game 6. And then Game 7. A monumental task may not be accomplished in one day, but breaking it up and achieving small goals toward your overall victory makes it not only manageable, but achievable.
  1. Let the Haters Hate. When you’re anointed “The Chosen One” and do yourself no favors by referring to yourself as “The King,” as James has done, criticism and scrutiny are sure to follow. Even when you try your best or do your best, others will compare you to others, not acknowledge your achievements, or even simply refuse to like you.One of the toughest parts of leading is realizing not everyone is going to like or agree with you. But leading isn’t about being liked. It’s about staying true to what you believe is right; the plan you have put in place, the people on your team, and the small victories on your way to your overall goal. Like James, block out the noise and focus on the vision. In the end, you’ll be the one smiling – or crying with tears of joy – at what you’ve accomplished.

 

*Many chastised LeBron (including me) for announcing that he was “taking his talents to Miami” in a televised spectacle that riled many, especially those in Cleveland. However, what many sometimes forget (including me) is that this “horrible PR move” still raised $2.5 million for the Boys and Girls club of Greenwich, Conn. If only all of our worst PR moves were still so charitable.