From Sports Business Analyst Rick Horrow:
Imagine if LeBron James had John Wooden to advise him instead of the coterie of childhood pals who have surrounded the Akron native since his early playing days. What would Wooden, who would have been much more aptly named The Wise Man of Westwood (and probably liked it better), advised James to do on July 1, when he officially becomes a free agent and is free to move his entourage and his empire wherever he pleases?
I imagine that Wooden would start by telling James that family always comes first. In James’ case, “family” means not just his mother and his young son, but the extended family of thousands in Akron and Cleveland who count on James to give them something to look forward to on a Sunday afternoon in February when it’s 24 degrees outside and summer seems a lifetime away. In Wooden’s mind, if you don’t live up to the expectations of your family, you fail. The coach would probably pull out his famous “Pyramid of Success” to show the 24-year-old James that “ambition” is on the lowest tier, “reliability” is in the middle and “patience” is at its peak.
Wooden would also remind James that winning championships is the result of a process, focusing on execution rather than the final score – or the final paycheck. And that humility is an important a component of leadership as is strength.
James, thus far, has admittedly not made many poor choices in his life. Unlike so many other pro athletes, he has no criminal record, there have been no tabloid scandals, and he’s taken great care to build a solid business foundation under his life that will extend well beyond his years on the hardwood.
Wooden, who cared so little about monetary success that he never even bothered to copyright his famous “Pyramid,” would tell James to forget about all that now that he’s provided for his family. The man who spent his entire coaching career at UCLA, turning down countless offers to follow the money and fame elsewhere, would likely tell James to finish what he’d started in Cleveland, in front of the friends, family and fans that had been with him since the beginning.
As great an athlete as the two-time NBA MVP is, and as successful as he’s been off the court, just imagine what James would have accomplished had there been a John Wooden-esque figure in his life, a sage with some age, not on the payroll and with no self-interest in his role.
As Wooden himself would say, “give thanks for your blessings” and “ask for guidance every day.”
Rick Horrow is the a Sports Business Analyst a frequent contributor to CNN. He is also co-author of "Beyond the Box Score: An Insider’s Guide to the $750 Billion Business of Sports." He joins CNN's Don Lemon on Sunday, June 6, at 6 p.m. ET. Tune in and be part of the discussion. Send your questions and comments to Rick on Twitter.