The Will To Win

Will is the word that comes to mind after watching the Cavs fight back from a 3-1 deficit and take the title last night. Of course, the Warriors did the same thing in the western conference finals against the Thunder. Those two series were two of the best NBA playoff series I’ve watched and I watched both cover to cover.

LeBron James is 31, at the peak of his career and capabilities, with six consecutive NBA finals appearances. He’s mature, seasoned, and understands what it takes to prevail. He’s left the court three times in those six finals with the same feeling that the Warriors left with last night. And although winning is what is celebrated, and rightly so, losing is what teaches you things. LeBron knows these things now. The Warriors are just learning them. They will be better because of this outcome although I suspect they aren’t feeling that today.

I think the Warriors are a dynasty in the making but they need to understand what LeBron has learned over the past ten years. Last year’s win came too easy in some ways. I think they will be better next year and I bet they won’t be as concerned by how many wins they get in the regular season.

I think this championship is LeBron’s crowning achievement in a career full of achievement. There may be more rings for LeBron but I don’t think there will be another that means as much as this one. And this image, which I’ve already posted once on this blog, will stay with me for a long time. It reeks of the will to win.


#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Brandon Burns

    Also props to Sansa Stark and Jon Snow for their will to win. Truly, truly epic. :-PBetween Game 7 and Game of Thrones, last night was a great night for TV!

    1. pointsnfigures

      And Pied Piper out of money

      1. Brandon Burns

        Hahaha! Yeah, Pied Piper is fucking up. That’s what they get for being so engineering-focused. That show is so spot on its amazing.

      2. Lawrence Brass

        Richard depressed in the bathtub was very dramatic. I kinda’ know how that feels.

    2. Jess Bachman

      Jon for his will, Sansa for being smart about it.

      1. Lawrence Brass

        Jon was cheating, I could swear he is under a protection spell.

        1. Jess Bachman

          LOL! (Lord of Light)

  2. William Mougayar

    That block he did he did in the last 2 mins of the game was another legendary moment. You could see what he was thinking right there.

    1. pointsnfigures

      that was a pretty amazing, athletic and super court aware play

      1. William Mougayar

        He was everywhere on the court, always ahead of the next move.

        1. Chimpwithcans

          That moment when he decides to sprint for the block is awesome…acceleration of note, then the jump then the timing of the block – will to win is one thing – physical attributes also help.

          1. William Mougayar

            I have never seen a block like this before. I’m sure it’s being studied and practiced by other players right now. It takes finesse and strength together with timing and a lot of luck for everything to happen as predicted.

    2. fredwilson

      yeah, that was the play of the game. or maybe Kyrie’s three. they were the one two punch that took the Warriors out

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup, they were powerful psychological blows.

        1. Michael Magic

          As though you would know. There is a lot of game left afterwards and the block was never the game changer

      2. Magic Michael

        My ass. Don’t glorify lebrick as though he did it all by himself. In a perfect world, Kyrie is the man who helped them win. You can clearly see how attention seeking lebron was after they won.This is Nike vs Under Armor competition and Nike won. That is all it has to say

    3. Dan Moore

      I saw that and thought, “have they redefined goal tending”?

      1. pointsnfigures

        He was up above the rim-the ball hadn’t hit the backboard yet. Clean

      2. William Mougayar

        He blocked it right on the board before it had a chance to rebound and be on top of the hoop which would have been goal tending. He was clearly thinking ahead and surged right there, at the right time and place.

    4. muratcannoyan

      Absolutely stunning

    5. K_Berger

      Agreed. That block had Will to Win written all over it.

    6. Semil Shah

      The athleticism in this play is unreal. Changing direction. Accelerating. Jumping, or should I say, flying. And, hitting the target at the right time.

      1. Kim Kardashian

        Anyone in that situation would have done the same thing, except that you are dissecting it like it never happened before. Tristan Thomson does it every time if only you watch it like a purist basketball fan. And to think of it, Westbrook does it over and over again

  3. pointsnfigures

    I think it also speaks to odds. The Cavs were down 3-1. No NBA team comes back in a final championship series to win. Rarely do NBA teams win Game 7’s in The Finals on the road. Both were +3 standard deviation, or maybe the a 4 standard deviation event. Might not ever see it again. Reminds me of a poem coaches used to recite to me all the time when I was growing up.The Man Who Thinks He canby Walter D. WintleIf you think you are beaten, you are;If you think you dare not, you don’t.If you’d like to win, but think you can’tIt’s almost a cinch that you won’tIf you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,For out in the world we findSuccess begins with a fellow’s will;It’s all in the state of mind.If you think you’re outclassed, you are.You’ve got to think high to rise.You’ve got to be sure of yourself beforeYou can ever win a prize.Life’s battles don’t always goTo the stronger or faster man;But sooner or later the man who winsIs the one who thinks he can.

    1. fredwilson

      great poem

    2. Matt Kruza

      Love it!!

    3. Brandon Burns

      As a Chicagoan, I know you were thrilled to see GSW lose. 73 my ass! :-PThey and the Cavs might be doing well in the breaking records department, but neither of them are poised for back-to-back 3peats. The legend of the 90s Bulls just got etched a bit deeper into stone.I’m sure Chicago slept well last night.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Michael would have sealed the deal. Just sayin’. That Bulls team was one of the best of all time. The game is different today, so it’s hard to compare eras.

        1. Brandon Burns

          It’s not hard to compare winning. Either you do it or you don’t! ;-)The Bulls went 6-0 in finals appearances. Neither the Cavs nor GSW have a zero in their loss column. Both teams have had incredible stories of being tried and tested and losing and coming back.The Bulls story is one of complete, absolute, never-in-doubt, always-pulled-through-no-matter-what dominance.#stillthebest

          1. Rob Larson

            I agree that MJ was unparalleled. Even when you were on the losing end, like my Suns were in ’93, you couldn’t help but admire his dominance.However, I reject the popular notion that being undefeated in finals appearances is the mark of greatness. The mark of greatness is that you won 6 championships, not that you never advanced to the finals a 7th time. What if the ’88, ’89, or ’90 Bulls had beat the pistons and advanced to the finals, instead of losing to the pistons 3 years in a row like they did? Would that have diminished their later accomplishments, by giving them a finals record of 6-1 instead of 6-0? I say no way. It is not a greater achievement to lose in the 2nd or 3rd round than to lose in the final round. MJ played 15 seasons in the NBA. If he had made the finals 15 times, winning 6 of them, that would have been even more impressive than winning 6 championships while 9 times either losing in early rounds or (with the wizards) missing the playoffs entirely.People hold Lebron’s 4 losses in the finals against him as if it would be better for him to only make the finals 3 times, and be 3-0, than to make the finals an INCREDIBLE 7 times, and win 3 of them, for a finals record of 3-4. Really? During the years that Lebron didn’t win the title, people think it would be more impressive for him to lose in the 2nd round (or not make the playoffs at all) than to advance to the final round? Bullcrap. Consistently advancing to the finals is an incredible achievement, even in the Eastern conference, and anyone that can’t see that is just wrong.Sorry – I don’t mean to throw this all on you. I am really talking to all the Skip Baylesses of the world who focus on finals record and forget about what really matters, which is sustained excellence over time.

    4. William Mougayar

      Coming from behind and surging towards the end is what the Cleveland Cavaliers did so well. They are an inspiration, and a proof point for that poem.

    5. avip

      Compare…If the track is tough and the hill is rough,THINKING you can just ain’t enough!My favorite Silverstein piece.

    6. JamesHRH

      Interestingly enough, LeBron completely lacks most of what this poem describes.However, after being physically dominant since he was 17 or 18, he apparently responds well (if you are a Cavs fan) to having someone challenge his manhood.If he was less needy and played as hard a MJ (like he did in Games 5-7) all the time, he’d be the GOAT of GOATs. But he is and he doesn’t.I find him to be incredibly emblematic of his times: all the tools, all the expectations but no real motivation to greatness.

      1. Ryan Frew

        I genuinely don’t understand what it would take for him to indicate he has “real motivation to greatness”. This guy just clawed his team back from a 3-1 deficit, led every player in every statistical category, which has NEVER been accomplished in the playoffs, and had a triple-double to close the series in the toughest arena of the year. That was all because Klay questioned his manhood? I don’t think so.

        1. JamesHRH

          When in The Finals, play like the best player ever (like he did In Games 5-7), leave he coaching to the coach, the GM’g to the GM and do whatever your team needs to get the W.If he’d done that for the last 6 years, no conversations. He’s Goaty McGoatface

          1. Ryan Frew

            Haha, Goaty McGoatfaceHe didn’t accumulate the highest averages in every category over the course of 3 games, alone. I actually am not convinced he’s the GOAT, although I do think he’s the best player ever, if that makes any sense. It just seems like the expectations are completely out of hand. 6 consecutive trips to the finals without any real motivation for greatness seems unlikely.

          2. JamesHRH

            He is motivated for greatness, but no GOAT candidate has come up small in big situations as much as LBJ.You are 100% correct: best player ( not really close ) but likely not the GOAT ( I am a Russell guy here ).

  4. Matt Kruza

    Guys it is wierd to know that you have experienced the craziest, most surreal night and certainly sports moment of your life by age 28. I live in cleveland, and was downtown at a bar designed for 500 that had probably 800-1000 yesterday. Got there 4 hours early, was so hot we all were sweating like the players, and it was straight pandamonium for 3 hours. Unbelievable night. Obviously sports are just sports, but it was super amazing, and definitely great that the city of cleveland can stop being known for never winning … and focus on the great rebirth we are having. And oh yeah, going to be one hell of a party wed. when the city shuts down to celebrate with a parade!!

    1. fredwilson

      congrats to Cleveland. so happy for the city and the fans

      1. Matt Kruza

        Thanks fred. I appreciate it!

    2. Donna Brewington White

      I’m not much of a sports aficionado (unless my kids are playing) but I wanted this win for Cleveland. Congratulations!

      1. Matt Kruza

        appreciate it, and i will gladly accept for the whole city 🙂 its funny how today everyone in town (including me no doubt) is talking about how “we won”, not how the “team lost” like last year. Human idiosyncracies make life great

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Makes up for the Cuyahoga River catching fire, right!What was the joke, “One night I spent a week in Cleveland.”?Well, Cleveland will have another party in July — hope it’s not just riots in the streets.

          1. Matt Kruza

            yeah july willl be interseting. And i know that your comment is mostly in positive jest, but cleveland is probably the most (iif not for sure top 5) revitalized cities. Winning top city to visit lists in summer for last 2-3 summers from regional and national publications. Tons of things to do, about 5 trendy neighborhoods (with admittedly very rough areas in other parts), top notch sports fans, great art / music (top 5 probably), rock halll of fame, pro football hall of fame, world class park system. Yep we have a ton of shit going on 🙂 And the river was back in 1969…

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Good for Cleveland. When I was a B-school prof in Ohio, one way and another I was in Cleveland several times. We went to some high end restaurants and also one a little to the west and not far from the water with some darned good Italian food.My brother was born a little east of Cleveland as Dad was teaching school after his Master’s from Ohio State.The big, apparently quite successful, effort to clean up Lake Erie should also be good for Cleveland.If Trump gets Rust Belt steel, coal, and manufacturing going again, it should be good for Cleveland.A friend had a high end wedding in some gorgeous location IIRC a little south of Cleveland.Once went with friends to The Mikado there. Cleveland’s had one of the world’s best orchestras for a very long time.Supposedly Trump is trying to make the Republican Convention not just political but also a big show and a lot of fun. Maybe he will.I wish Cleveland well.

      2. Kim Kardashian

        Any specific reason ? Is it because Steph has hazel eyes that didn’t attract the fans ?

  5. Aaron Klein

    Like some of the best CEOs I know, he ground that one out. Nothing came easy, he fought for every point and led his team to victory. I was rooting for the Warriors, but it was inspiring to watch.

    1. fredwilson

      he’s always been a grinder but even more so as he’s gotten older

    2. JLM

      .Inspiration is for amateurs. The pros grind it out. Every day.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. JLM

          .I have heard a lot of variations over the years starting in the late 1960s. I wonder who did say that first?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. awaldstein

            dunno but we choose our heroes to define our me chuck close does it.I get a cold and grab the cat and go to bed.he has a stroke, is paralyzed except for one hand and redefines the entire art world and the concept of creativity and beauty.

          2. JLM

            .There are people for whom any obstacle is just a bump in the road. The human spirit is the most powerful force in the world, when awakened.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. Girish Mehta

            Picasso is more famous for his ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’ line…but he also said something quite similar -“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”.Interesting that two of the people who said this are both painters/artists (Chuck Close is of course more famous for having said it).

  6. Dan Moore

    As I mentioned watching the games of this series (thanks ESPN app), my wife kept saying to me “I have never known you to care about a basketball game”. And I usually don’t. But man, this series, with the personalities and the outstanding play was just too good not to watch.

  7. jason wright

    the will to survive is even greater.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Sometimes the two are the same thing. Need to Win to Survive…You lose, you don’t survive.Sometimes the two are different things. You Survive today in order to Win another day.Knowing the difference between the two scenarios – easy in hindsight, but difficult in the moment.

  8. Tom Labus

    Congrats to the Cavs. Most impressive. Season is too long though. Playoffs started in April.

    1. pointsnfigures

      NBA fans are also soap opera fans. Heh.

  9. JLM

    .You have to love the story. It is the American Dream writ large with a basketball. The never-say-die attitude is everything.The big difference makers were — Kyrie Irving (Australian passport holder) and Steph Curry.Irving (can never really love a Dukie) — look at his stat line. He was the backstop to LeBron’s normal excellence. THAT SHOT — only a handful of guys in the NBA have the guts to take it and even fewer make it. Well played.Curry — MIA this game. He hits his season average and the Warriors win. Nice defense job to hold him to 17 and 4/14 from the arc. Well played on Cavs defenders.The game came down to those two as everyone else played their role.It is gratifying when you can deconstruct an undertaking and see what made it work.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Brandon G. Donnelly

      curry also missed some wide open looks that he was hitting all day long in the regular reason

  10. Brandon G. Donnelly

    I was waiting for this post this morning.This is the play that I think perfectly illustrates that will:…The block.

    1. JLM

      .Agreeing more with you than you do with yourself.THE BLOCKJLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Brandon G. Donnelly


    2. fredwilson

      yup. likely the play of the game and series. although Kyrie’s three was also huge

  11. Salt Shaker

    Two coaches on the sidelines kind of got screwed in consecutive years: Mark Jackson with (GS) and David Blatt (CLE). I’m not trying to take anything away from Kerr and Lue, they earned it, but the way Blatt was tossed aside in particular was a bit disturbing. He was 30-11, nineteen games over .500, when LeBron did him in. LeBron may be a champion on the court but true champions display character in the way they carry themselves off the court too. Congrats to CLE and its fans. 50 yrs.

    1. JLM

      .The back story. It’s always the back story. Well played.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. Ryan Frew

      If implementing a coaching change and the Decision are the two biggest black marks on LeBron’s character throughout his career, the guy is a rare case of an actual role model in sports.

  12. Jill Stern

    My dad instilled the love of basketball in me when we used to sit on the court at the Piston’s games. Add that to the fact that I grew up with the Gilbert brothers, so to watch their team win the Championship on Father’s Day, was a ‘high’. I loved every minute of the playoffs. Many people have bad mouthed LeBron, but he persevered!

    1. Rick Ollistrr

      He still needs to be bad mouthed as you know he is not why they won championship. Kyrie is. That act of fouling against draymond and lamenting about it is not what superstars do. Heck, even after his self-proclaimed statement that draymond hit his nuts, he still walked away unshaken at all.Look at the video closely, soon after the walked over him he hit draymond head with his nuts.I am not lamenting over what happened , just that he even grabbed the MVP trophy from Kyrie. Totally unjustified

  13. Joe Marchese

    Bobby Knight may be a despicable human being, but a fantastic coach and a great teacher of what it takes to win. I love quotes because the best pack a lot of value in a few words. Here are some of my favorites from Knight:“Everybody wants to be on a championship team…. nobody wants to come to practice.”“Mental toughness is to physical toughness as four is to one.”“The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.”

    1. JLM

      .I once spent a month — one afternoon — fishing in an aluminum skiff with Bobby K. Political fundraiser for Rick Perry kind of thing.The guy possesses almost no small talk. He has a tendency to deliver monologues. Luckily, we were fishing so I could get him to be quiet for a few minutes. Still, I admit I enjoyed listening to him.He asked me, “What do you do?”At the time, I was building high rise office buildings.He said, “I don’t know a damn thing about high rise office buildings.”We did talk a little politics.For the record, I caught a lot more fish than he did. A lot more.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. LE

        Interesting story. I would have assumed that someone who is a fundraiser would have read and adhered to Dale Carnegie principles [1] than someone who passed you off that way.[1] I never read the book but I know the principles which are obvious.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        Dad liked fishing, a lot. When we were in Florida, he had some gasoline fired lanterns, some nets, and some wash tubs and would go to the mouth of a river, drop in some dough balls, wait a couple of beers, toss in the net, and soon pull up a washtub full of shrimp. It was fresh shrimp for us and the neighbors.Later he and I went fishing together for years. We’d get up at maybe 3 AM, drive to some lake or river, and be fishing before dawn.Dad got fiberglass blanks and turned them into really nice rods, ferrules, guides, cork handles, cases, etc. I got good bending wire with spinners into lures for casting. Dad made some flies for the fly rods.I got good with a casting rod — could drop a lure within 6 inches of a submerged tree stump from 20 yards away.We had nice looking tackle boxes, pith helmets to keep off the sun, parkas in case of rain, comfortable seat cushions that doubled as life preservers, elegant paddles for slowly moving the boat quietly, etc.We nearly never caught anything! I was torqued, but Dad didn’t seem to be at all concerned.I couldn’t understand what the heck we were doing, going to all that effort and catching next to nothing, and finally gave up.Well, mostly what he was trying to do was just get away from the rest of life. Well, there are worse ways of doing that. But I wish he’d been more interested in actually catching fish!

  14. Aashay Mody

    Incredible turnaround led by one man’s will to win. And in Lebron’s own words “love me or hate me but at the end of the day you will respect me”.Another important lesson to take from this is that Lebron and the Cavs took 1 game at a time and never let the odds unsettle them. In life, it’s important to sometimes take a step back and take 1 day at a time.

  15. andrewparker

    Someone give the marketing associate in charge of stadium advertising at State Farm a raise. Their work got posterized 🙂

  16. cwagner

    I think LBJ’s pin of Iguodala’s layup at the end showed even a more will to win. Where did LeBron come from on that play?

  17. Steven Kane

    The LeBron james story is so many many inspiring things… his impoversihed upbringing, his determination to be the best etc etc… but the big huge sunshine rays for me come from his journey into ego and narcissism then back to roots and humility. returning to cleveland when he could have easily just slid into the mega watt world of big coastal city celebrity. wow. what vision, what character. he got the ring for cleveland (hoorah!!) but that was not at all a reasonable expectation. james is one of those exceedingly rare people in history who could be king… and dont take the crown. and then show that the very qualities that make them great can be channeled in directions that yield deep human benefits for so many while shrugging off the gilded pixie dust seduction of tawdry celebrity.i cried. thank you lebron.

    1. JLM

      .Poetic and inspiring in your own right.Well played.It is good to see a good guy do good.America needs more of this.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  18. JaredMermey

    Has anyone ever lived up to the hype as much as LeBron James has? On the cover of SI at 16 y/o and will go down as a top 5 (maybe top 2) player or all time.

  19. sigmaalgebra

    The picture of LeBron about to dunk the ball, maybe a big slam dunk, is spectacular and maybe a strong symptom of his “will to win” and much of the reason he did win. Maybe. Okay, I’ll accept that the dunk was just that significant.But there are some other examples of the “will to win” and corresponding pictures of the winners:There is J. Robert Oppenheimerhttps://upload.wikimedia.or…That picture of him doesn’t have him look like he has anywhere near the “will to win” that the picture of LeBron showed.Still, Oppenheimer won, on time, big time. By having the US not invade the home islands of Japan, he saved ballpark 1 million US casualties. From R. Rhodes, the cost was about $3 billion, that is, $3000 per casualty — a bargain.There is D. D. Eisenhowerhttp://www.gettysburgfounda…That picture of him doesn’t have him look like he has anywhere near the “will to win” that the picture of LeBron showed.Still, Eisenhower won, on time, big time, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Paris, and all the way to Berlin.There is A. Hitler…Maybe that picture has him looking highly determined to win.Heck there was even a movie about his “will to win”:Triumph des Willens (1935)Just as movie making, impressive movie — loud, bombastic, dramatic, passionate, artistic — by Leni Riefenstahl, e.g., at…Still, Hitler lost, big time: North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Paris, and all the way to Berlin.There is A. Einstein…That picture of him doesn’t have him look like he has anywhere near the “will to win” that the picture of LeBron showed.Still, Einstein won, big time, photoelectric effect (evidence of quantum nature of light), Brownian motion (evidence of the particle theory of matter), special relativity, e.g., E = mc^2, and general relativity, one of the top, center crown jewels of civilization.There is Clarence “Kelly” Johnson…That picture of him doesn’t have him look like he has anywhere near the “will to win” that the picture of LeBron showed.Still, Johnson won, on time, big time, several times, e.g.,http://iliketowastemytime.c…that got the pictures, for years, and was never shot down.There is V. Lenin…Maybe that picture has him looking highly determined to win.Still, Lenin lost, big time. Much the same for Stalin and Mao.As by pointsnfigures today at…It’s all in the state of mind.Well, sometimes. But another way is just being right. E.g., basically Einstein just sat alone in a small, quiet room, figured it out, wrote it down, sent it in for publication. The main point was, he was correct in some really big ways.For most good objectives, there are better ways of winning and showing determination to win than a spectacular slam dunk shot or a facial expression.

    1. JLM

      Crying Lebron for you

  20. cavepainting

    “While winning is what is celebrated, losing is what teaches you things.”Very true and I will also add that losing makes winning sweeter and teaches you to take nothing for granted. In any aspect of life: business, sport, relationships and everything else.

  21. cavepainting

    What also made this game so extraordinary was the fact that the difference between winning and losing was so little. The Cavs won because they held their nerve just a tad better in the last 4 1/2 minutes.

  22. george

    LeBron’s will to win means much more than simply putting up 30+ on offense. He belongs to an elite class of players, those committed to perfecting all aspects of their game, including defense.The warriors are a superb offensive team, but still evolving defensively, a big factor in winning tightly contested championships…The last minute came down to defense-game, set, match…LeBron!Congrats Clevland, Promise fulfilled!

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  24. Magic Michael

    Neither..Just a freelancer with an intelligent perspective of things happening around you and meYou still think Lebron has talent to turn it around.NBA WON THE SERIES. HAD LEBRON REQUESTED FOR THE FINAL GAME 7 TO BE PLAYED AT HOME IN CLEVELAND, NBA WOUKD HAVE ACCEDED TO IT