There comes a point in almost every playoff series, particularly ones that do not go the distance, where one team realizes it is beaten. Usually before the last game, but sometimes as early as after Game 1. The better team is asking questions and posing problems that the team about to lose cannot answer, and they know it. In the locker room, around the team about to have its season end, you can usually sense that moment.
That’s what it felt like around the Cavaliers right after Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals. They looked beaten. Down 3-1 to the Warriors, it felt like the series was over.
Instead, it became the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history. What changed, what sparked the Cavaliers? LeBron James‘ MVP-level play in the Finals played a big part of it, but Timofey Mozgov and Kevin Love both said this week that it was LeBron’s words that mattered as much or more than his play.
Love talked about it recently on the Ask Gary Vee podcast, here is the highlight in question.
“If Lebron only played like he played and didn’t do his locker room speeches, we wouldn’t have won. As good as he was on the court, if he didn’t motivate the team as he did, we wouldn’t have won. He motivated us and made sure that we had the right attitude.”
“When we were trailing 3-1 not one player on the team thought we’d lose, thanks to him.”
That is leadership. LeBron brings that like few others in the league ever have.
Granted, a lot of things went into that comeback — Draymond Green‘s suspension, Andrew Bogut‘s injury (an overlooked aspect too often), Kyrie Irving stepping up his game — but none of that matters if LeBron doesn’t get the team to believe.