An Unexpected Lesson About Business and Life From LeBron James

LeBron James - Associated Press Photo

This article will have nothing to do with how LeBron James plays basketball and I hope you can suspend your like or dislike of him and/or the sport of basketball for a few minutes.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story of LeBron James, let me very quickly catch you up to speed:

LeBron was a dominant high school basketball player in Akron, Ohio. LeBron got drafted directly out of high school in 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. LeBron played for the Cavaliers for seven seasons, never having any other superstar players on his team. LeBron, somehow, took his team to the NBA Finals in 2007, but lost. LeBron left the Cavaliers, after his contract expired, and signed with the Miami Heat in 2010. LeBron, with the help of his teammates, took his team to four straight NBA Finals, winning two NBA Championships. LeBron’s contract expired in Miami in 2014 and LeBron is now back playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Alright, I hope I haven’t lost those of you who don’t like basketball or LeBron James. Because I want to take you on a side journey.

When LeBron James left the Cavaliers in 2010 and signed with the Miami Heat it was incredibly controversial. Not only because of how he handled the situation, making it a spectacle of sorts*, but that he left his hometown state where he’d said he wanted to play forever. 

*The Decision, as it was called, garnered incredible attention and notoriety. Most people saw it as a pompous move, and it might have been, but what they failed to see was that the sponsors who were a part of it contributed millions of dollars to the Boys & Girls Club of America. But I digress… 

When LeBron announced he was leaving Cleveland, it was as if he’d assassinated the president. People setup hate groups on social media. Ex-fans burned his jersey outside the stadium. His likeness was used in many unflattering ways on the Internet. The owner of the Cavaliers wrote a [childish] scathing letter to LeBron. Pretty much, everyone in Ohio despised LeBron James and said “good riddance.”

LeBron went about his time in Miami like a professional. With every game the Miami Heat played against the Cleveland Cavaliers he was booed beyond belief. And I don’t mean he was booed just when they announced his name; I mean every time he touched the ball on the court during a game in Cleveland there was a roar of disapproval for LeBron.

As I mentioned in my quick career recap above, LeBron James has since returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I won’t bore you with all the contract details, but LeBron could have played for a handful of teams and actively chose to return to his roots (knowing, how much people had hated him and loathed his decision to leave). 

But a funny thing happened… LeBron became a hero again.

All the analysts, newscasters, reporters, bloggers, fans, citizens of the state of Ohio rejoiced in his triumphant return to Cleveland. It’s said that LeBron will have a $500M impact on the city of Cleveland by returning to the Cavaliers. Oh, and if you didn’t see it (or purposely ignored it), I’d highly recommend reading how LeBron handled his second decision.

Alright, so what the heck does LeBron have to do with you, your business (or life) and the idea of taking action? 

No matter what mistake or decision you’ve made in your past, it’s what you do in the future that defines who you are and what people remember you for. 

To me, it doesn’t matter what you think of LeBron or professional basketball, I just want to share the fact that we all make decisions in our lives. Some of those decisions can create turmoil and even tarnish our names. But almost no decision can define you for the rest of your life, even on the biggest of stages like LeBron has. And there’s almost always an opportunity to earn people’s trust and respect back.

Most people know me from starting IWearYourShirt and being “The T-Shirt Guy.” But for me, that’s only one step in my journey as an entrepreneur. IWearYourShirt won’t define me forever and I know I’ll come up with many more ideas and start many more businesses in the years to come. Luckily, I don’t think I’ve offended any entire cities by wearing sponsored t-shirts.

We all make our own decisions and have to live with the consequences of them. What we don’t have to do is sit by, idly, and be trampled by negativity and criticism of our decisions.

Truthfully, I searched for some eloquent quote to end this article with. Something that better summed up all my thoughts above and about LeBron James. But you know what? Life and business doesn’t always get wrapped up perfectly. I know some people won’t enjoy this article and I’m okay with that. We’re all entitled to our opinions. I just hope you’ll take a moment to see the bigger picture I’m trying to paint here and not focus on your feelings about one professional athlete or the sport he plays. 

[Photo credit: Associated Press]