Pages Navigation Menu

Social Media – and the Heart of a Champion

I thought I was done writing about the NBA for awhile. However, I ended up reading so many blogs and listening to sports radio regarding the recent NBA Finals. Rather than focusing on the never-say-die Dallas Mavericks, most of the discussion remained around LeBron James.

We sure love a villain, and LeBron provided us ample opportunity to vilify him: From…

  • Making “The Decision” to desert a city/state (on prime-time TV) while it was one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn (I prefer the Steve Carell version below)

  • To talking about championships in terms of “unlimited” when he joined the Heat,
  • To poking fun at Dirk during these Finals, you wonder what he and his handlers were thinking. And make no mistake, he has handlers that coach him on how to best maintain that King James brand!

Meanwhile, Dirk has quietly amassed a stellar career and now an NBA Championship. I think this video does a great job of illustrating the chasm separating their maturity levels:

While LeBron was pulling the disappearing act in the 4th quarter throughout these finals, Dirk was becoming more efficient and clutch as a player even though battling torn tendons on the fingers on his left hand *and* 100+ degree fever. While LeBron ran off to Miami to stack the deck in his favor, Dirk remained patient with the building process for a championship run.

My buddy Albert Qian wrote a nice blog about what not to do with social media using LeBron as an example. Let’s take a “Be Like Dirk” approach to this blog post:

  1. Be Skilled – OK, I love to promote team over individual virtues, but there is no escaping you need talent to win a championship. Dirk is compulsive with his approach to the game, and he already came into the league as arguably the most skilled 7-footer the league had ever seen. Remember when he brought his own free throw coach in to correct some flaws several years back? When it comes to social media, you need to have consistent practice (be there) and diligent preparation (research for blogs, actually reading content before retweeting and vetting followers before following back).
  2. Be Humble – Dirk is never a lightning rod for the media or fans to develop the “hate” part of a love/hate relationship. People may have previously accused him of being soft, but they didn’t call him arrogant or callous. It is easy to be humble when you have no skills and no fans/friends/followers. However, what happens as you approach superstar status in social media? Everybody wants to follow you, they want you to follow them, they hope to be mentioned in the same tweet and they want your autographed book. Will you retain the same humbleness that got you to that lofty perch? Will you earnestly mentor and communicate with others, or will your handlers and bots start taking care of the menial chores of “maintaining” relationships?
  3. Be Loyal – Nobody wants to be a stepping stone although many are willing to give you a lift up. LeBron used Cleveland as a stepping stone (and wiped his shoe afterwards). Dirk got his lift up from Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks, and he loyally became the foundation and face of the organization. Do not get so full of your own accomplishments and individual stats that you forgot who got you there. Social Media is a collaborative environment, and you can’t get anywhere without loyal support, so repay that loyalty in kind.
  4. Be Resilient – Miami dealt Dirk’s Mavericks a crushing finals defeat in the 2006 NBA Finals. Dallas was up 2-0 and talking victory parade before Miami swept the next four games to win the series 4-2. This loss is what labeled the Mavs soft, and they proceeded to flame out in the playoffs for the next 4 years. Mark Cuban stuck with his core players and worked to fill certain roles (including toughness). Dirk kept his confidence high and blocked out the naysayers. When it comes to social media, you may have people attack your personal views or your company brand. In competitive situations, you may lose when you *know* you are the better solution or simply lose face in what became a polarizing discussion. Be willing to self-assess your motives and your beliefs; however, remain strong in your convictions and keep your focus on your goals.
  5. Be Adaptable – When Dirk lost in the NBA Finals in 2006, he was considered a “facing the basket” jump shooter with 3-pt range and a great free throw shooter. The scouting report on Dirk was to get physical and knock him off his finesse game. By the time the 2011 playoffs rolled around, Dirk kept all his original skills. However, he adapted by augmenting that skill set with “back to the basket” and pick-n-roll versus just pick-n-pop moves. In social media, you need to adapt to each channel’s capability of delivering your message. Are you suited for video on YouTube, micro-blogging on Twitter, or mixing content on Facebook? Perhaps you are a natural teacher and evangelist for your company brand and are well suited for blogging. Are *you* still teachable? What if someone introduces a contrarian opinion or conflicting data? Are you prepared to “own” the need to change course and adapt your message in order to succeed?
  6. Be Tenacious – How many times during these 2011 playoffs were the Mavs down by double digits, even in the 4th quarter, yet they won the game? They couldn’t score 15 points with one basket, so they stuck to sound defense and kept to the fundamentals on the offensive end. They focused on becoming more efficient on each possession, and they did not get discouraged. You need to remain tenacious with your social media efforts. If you get caught up with how low your Klout or PeerIndex scores are, or your lack of page views and comments, then you can become discouraged and quit too soon. Or you start to take shortcuts to inflate your following and views (bots and black hat SEO tactics). Some people will also fret about measurable ROI in dollars, but your initial ROI will be measured by both quantity and level of engagement. Focus on building the tribe that knows that you care. They will then care what you know and will reward your tenacity with bottom line results.
  7. Be a Champion – Dirk had the patient heart of a champion combined with the other six attributes outlined above. The result is that he is now both an NBA champion and NBA Finals MVP. The player with the self-proclaimed royalty (King James) has been vanquished. I encourage you to aspire and work towards these same virtues with your social media efforts. You most likely will not become a champion overnight. However, you greatly increase your chances for success and personal growth.

What have you thought about the incredible focus on LeBron’s failings vs the Mavericks’ success? How well are you tracking against the attributes above? Where are you doing great…and where could you use a little accountability or even encouragement? I look forward to your comments.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Brian Vickery

I love my Vickery Girls - and grandsons! My career has blessed me to the point I was able to start a new consultancy in 2018: Analytic Integrity. I look to provide analytic experience, and business integrity, to an Analytics world while helping data-driven organizations mature. I enjoy teaching and coaching, watching football and basketball, and playing tennis. I graduated UT-Austin.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterLinkedInGoogle PlusYouTube


  1. Only in America do we praise an great athlete as a hero and then beat him up in the press when he gets his tights get twisted! LeBron was and is still an outstanding basketball star. However through either inexperience or a bad judgement call he chose to make a change in his life that could have been handled in a more positive publicity savvy way…like warning your team owner you intend to leave and are taking past in a televised interview to make the announcement. LeBron owed Cleveland the chance to “process” and then prepare a regretful but perhaps supporting response. And unforntunately by not winning this year’s World Championship, the Miami Heat has insured LeBron’s press mishaps will always overshadow discussion about his athletic ability on the basketball court. So sad….

    • I agree Cheri, and already wrote that we would have no issue if 3 savvy business leaders got together to stack the deck and ensure their success. We have a different standard for athletes. And LeBron just continues to show an immaturity level (witness his “haters can go home” press remarks) that is astounding. It all comes down to a young athlete having all the physical gifts but being thrust into the spotlight before mental/emotional maturity catches up.

  2. True Brian, we have seen so much of this in the NBA in the past several years and now it’s creeping into the NFL as well. It will be interesting to see who offers a pro spot to former OSU quarterback Terrell Pryor after the devastating choices a few players made that virtually ended with coach Jim Tressel resigning because it is alleged that he knew of their NCAA violation activities.

    • Cheri, I’m definitely not an Ohio State fan, but it was tough to see a proud program ruined by scandal. Pryor definitely has athleticism, but I would not have said he was ready for the NFL yet. A separate interesting debate is how long athletes should mature in the college ranks. You do not want to jeopardize or reduce their earning potential. At the same time, they are not ready for the public scrutiny or the large infusion of wealth without restraint. Wouldn’t it be intriguing if they still had to live in dorms and had curfews like college athletes ;) Of course, look how young tennis players are, and they travel the world with an entourage and only get paid for performance. A little different than NBA guaranteed contracts!!