On Monday night, the Los Angeles Clippers were holding the ball and waiting for the clock to expire on a 121-112 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Then, Clippers coach Doc Rivers called a timeout, with about nine seconds left, confounding onlookers. What, did he want to run a play to put a cruel stamp on the victory?
He called the timeout, walked over to the public announcer's table, grabbed the microphone, and asked the hometown Clippers fans to give visiting player Dirk Nowitzki a standing ovation.
The 40-year old Nowitzki is a perennial all-star, NBA champion, and considered a shoe-in for the hall of fame. Many also feel this is his last season (although the 7-foot power forward has yet to announce that). Rivers wanted to show Nowitzki the love. Watch for yourself.
Doc called a timeout to stop the game so Clippers players and fans could give Dirk a standing ovation pic.twitter.com/G0yV99Qr8R-- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 26, 2019
As Bleacher Report reported, Nowitzki confessed to being confused at first, then became emotional when he understood what was happening, then transitioned to admiration and appreciation for what the coach had just done. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban offered his appreciation as well:
Rivers role modeled what being a class act leader looks like.
Then there's Spike Lee.
The super-director had a very different reaction towards competition this week. He was none too pleased when a primary competitor for the Best Picture Oscar, "Green Book", took home the prize versus his own "BlacKkKlansman". In fact, upon hearing the announcement, Mr. Lee threw up his hands in disgust and stormed out of the Dolby theater. In a post Oscars interview, he would liken "Green Book"'s win to a referee's bad call at one of his beloved New York Knicks game. Again, see for yourself.
Two men. Two polar opposite reactions to competition.
The disparity in leadership is startling. Rivers seized the moment (he clarified that it was not pre-meditated) and used it to demonstrate class, integrity, respect, and appreciation for a competitor.
Lee reacted angrily in the moment, understandable given past failures to convert multiple nominations into a Best Picture nod or given the controversy behind "Green Book" (some feel it glosses over the stark reality of racism), but still unacceptable. He let emotional unintelligence take hold and put it on display for the world to see. He had a chance later, in a calmer moment, to retract and apologize, but instead poured gas on the fire and dug a deeper trench of resentment and lack of respect.
I like Spike Lee. I respect what he's done with his career, the statements he has made, his contributions to topics that need discussion and advancement.
But this time around, he was on the wrong end of polar opposites--the end that's cold and bitter.
In my own experience, nothing good ever comes from disrespecting competition. I recall teams and leaders from my days in consumer-packaged goods that made it a habit to talk down about competition, to dismiss their victories and mock their missteps, and to constantly position competition as less than ethical. Those were the brands I worked on that were losing share.
On the other side, every single brand I ever worked on that was growing share was populated with a team that respected and even admired competition, took them seriously, and even did scenario planning anticipating what they might do next.
The dichotomy of Rivers versus Lee offers an anatomy of classy versus classless leadership. The man who used the microphone (literally) for good versus evil, won the day. You can too.