The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat.
The end of every NBA season comes down to those two, powerful emotions--in a striking juxtaposition on the largest of stages. It may be cliché, but it's undeniable.
Last night, this year's NBA finals drew to a close, with the Cleveland Cavaliers defeating the Golden State Warriors in a thriller of a game seven that came down to the final minute. And somehow, the stakes seemed so much bigger.
There were many themes that ran deep in these finals:
The rematch between the two teams that battled in last year's championship, complete with contrasting styles: Golden State with its great ball movement and three-point-shooting finesse; Cleveland with its gritty, grind-it-out approach
A historic, record-breaking 73-win season by the Warriors that would be forever tainted without a championship banner to accompany it
More potential history by the Cavaliers, as the team attempted to be the first ever to recover from a 3-1 deficit in the finals
And, of course, there was the LeBron James story:
Homegrown kid leaves to pursue his dreams in the big city, only to return with a promise: to deliver a championship to the place he's always considered home.
It was a battle between two remarkable teams. Both took turns throwing their hardest punches--like two heavyweight boxers trying to wear the other down, knowing that victory would belong to the last man standing.
And although each team member played his role--no denying that Kyrie Irving's dagger in the final minute was the shot of the game--this series ultimately came down to two players, the emotional leaders of their respective teams: LeBron James and Draymond Green.
For all of their differences, James and Green hold a lot in common. They're both fierce, highly skilled competitors. The two contribute in so many ways on the court, both of them filling the stat sheet (LeBron finished last night's game with a triple-double, Green was only an assist short of one), yet either would be happy scoring zero points if it meant a win for their respective teams.
So it's fitting that, at the end of one of the greatest championship series in the history of the basketball, the two rivals would embrace at center court.
All that emotion, all those feeling--a culmination of years of hard work, repeated promises to their teammates and fans (and in James's case, an entire city). Pure dedication summed up in single moment.
No more controversy surrounding Green's suspension. No more trash talk. No more battling.
Just two team leaders, hugging it out.
We couldn't hear the whole conversation, and neither should we have. Yet, one powerful statement came out, loud and clear:
"Much respect, man."
This moment epitomizes the game of basketball--why players like James and Green, Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving fall in love with the game. It's why I too developed a love for basketball as a teenager, playing with friends in the park until midnight, and later.
Because at the end of the day, win or lose, there are major lessons to be learned from this game.
And here, in this moment, James and Green reminded us of one of the biggest:
In business, in work, in life: Learn to put aside your differences. If you work hard and assign others dignity--if you respect your foes along with your friends--you'll benefit.
You'll develop strong, healthy relationships.
You will continue to learn. You will continue to grow.
And that's the true measure of a champion.
Congratulations to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors for an amazing NBA finals--and for all the lessons that came along with it.