It's known as an unguardable shot in the NBA.
On Saturday, the Cleveland Cavaliers were tied against the Toronto Raptors at 103-103 with eight seconds left on the clock. It's the NBA Playoffs, so everything is on the line. If you're a fan of professional basketball, there is only one thing to do at this point: You give the ball to the guy who has more points, assists, and rebounds than any player in history.
In dramatic fashion, James charged down the court, then launched into the air like a SpaceX rocket as he faded away from the rim and banked his shot into the basket. It was a wonder to behold, a jaw-dropping moment even for diehard fans (and fellow players).
Here's the shot:
Because of how defenders usually react (by jumping straight up to block the shot), it's known as unguardable because the player is backing away from the rim. The ball floated in the air, the clock reached zero, and then--swish. The crowd erupted, game over.
After the game, James mentioned how he "lives for those moments" and noted how the Raptors did a good job putting pressure on him initially.
Then he said something that applies to every corner of life and business, something that easily ranks as one of the best quotes from a professional player in recent memory--and one that could even change how you view success and failure.
Here is the quote (an answer to a question about how he made the shot):
"To be honest, sometimes I really don't know but I trust every shot I'm going to take because I work on every shot. So sometimes it could be a pull up three, as you saw in the Indiana series. It could be a drive for a layup that I've had in the past. It could be a floater, like it was tonight off the glass. I practice pretty much every shot that I take in a game."
One reason that's so profound is that it applies to everyday life, perhaps even more than basketball. Here's an example of what I mean from my own work experience.
As a journalist, there have been times when I've been called on to interview famous people, and I've had my share of missteps. In one interview with filmmaker Ken Burns quite a few years ago, I knew enough about the interview subject and watched many of his documentaries, but had not really researched his background--when did he make his first film, what was he working on next. I flubbed the interview because I didn't do my homework, and I asked questions that were tedious and a bit shallow.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I remember preparing for an interview with the rapper 50 Cent once, when he had partnered with a headphone company. I knew I'd be meeting him at a tech conference, so I decided to listen to almost all of his albums. I researched his career in movies, and I found out a lot about his background growing up in Queens and how he had once been shot nine times in 2000. I knew that he might be a little edgy, given the fact that he was a star doing interviews at a tech show.
I opened with some questions about his most recent movie, then made a joke about the tech conference. To my great surprise, he let down his guard and we chatted about his long career in movies and music (and went way over our appointed interview time).
In the first interview, my own lack of preparation caused problems. In the second interview, I was "working on every shot" and came prepared for (almost) any possible digression. I wasn't quite prepared for the bodyguards hovering around him, or the fact that 50 Cent (his real name is Curtis James Jackson III) would be so polite and friendly.
For most of us, the biggest failures are a result of not being prepared. We don't do the hard work of researching a topic, crunching the numbers, or analyzing the competition. When the trials come (and they always do), we act surprised--how did this happen? We're a long way from being a superstar in business and life, mostly because we want things to come easily without first doing the hard work. Ask anyone who has achieved some level of success and you might get an answer that's similar to what James said:
I don't really know what will happen in life or business, but I trust myself because I've researched every possible angle and thought about every possible scenario. I've done my homework. I know when things get hard, I'll have an answer to the problem because I know which problems might be coming, and I've figured out how to find a workaround.
Is there a difficult decision coming up in life? Do you have to give a presentation to the board to explain a recent downfall? Are you trying to expand into a new market at work? Are there some struggles with your kids that require patience and grace?
Prepare, research, and practice--be open to new ideas. Find the workarounds.
Keep in mind that even LeBron James misses shots, and he is widely considered one of the best players ever. Some failures come from factors that are totally beyond your control. But the key to success is doing whatever you can do to "practice every shot" and trust yourself to make every single one. It can be a total game-changer, even outside of sports.