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A lesson from LeBron

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In a primetime special on ESPN last Thursday night, LeBron James became the latest in a series of Cleveland heartbreakers. James’ search for a new basketball home became a typical American supersized soap opera. In Cleveland, understandably, it was “the king is dead.” In Miami the cry was “Long live the King!”

Even after what should have been the soap opera’s last act, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert – understandably upset – penned a poisonous Comic Sans e-mail about James’ “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal.” Nike began tearing down a 10-story mural of its former hero as fans set LeBron jerseys on fire. Once again, there is no joy in Cleveland.

Yet amid the hoopla in Miami (and nowhere do they do “hoopla” better than in Miami) and the rending of cloth in Cleveland, a small yet important lesson may have been lost. It is a lesson that is as valid in the world of sports as it is in the universe of sales and that all too often it is subsumed by greed.

If we are to take James at his word, the overriding decision to take his game to Miami was not driven by money. Other cities offered greater compensation. No, the once and former king said that he thought that by joining the Miami Heat he felt that he would have the best chance of winning a championship. As a student of the game, he knows that the great ones are judged by the number of championships they’ve won, and that is a club Mr. James wants to join.

Even the great salespeople occasionally lose focus – as some have suggested LeBron did during this year’s playoffs. Yet ultimately, as LeBron, the best salespeople I’ve ever met focus on the win and not the commission. The sales “win” enriches everyone, client and salesperson alike. When the dust settles down and the playing begins, that will be the goal for the Heat, just as it always is for the best among us.

Check out more blog entries from David Saltzman.