I love sports! I have participated in and watched competitive sports most of my life. Sports provide avenues to learn teamwork, establish friendships, and develop discipline. I am sure that these attributes have played a big role in how our society developed a huge infatuation with sports. But what really interests me is how, in the arena of professional sports, some players emerge with the reputation as leaders in the public eye while other players do not. Of course, there are some players that have earned a bad reputation and seem to revel in that. But a large majority of professional athletes have worked very hard to reach the top level of their sport. Along the way, most of these players have been leaders on their respective high school and college teams, yet now they are being either lifted up by the public or shot down. And this is done by a public that does not really know the person. We see the player on court and might hear of an off-court action, but other than that, we really have no idea of their leadership qualities.
So, the question seems to be what circumstances exist to steer the public to develop their opinions. Let’s look at the example of the Boston Celtics versus the Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams have their fan base, but it appears to me that the general public leans more towards favoring the Celtics. Did this perception begin in the 1980’s when the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson and the Celtics drafted Larry Bird? Did the nickname, Showtime, make those Laker teams seem almost too showy, while the Celtics had a harder nosed, blue collar reputation that appealed more to the public? Then again, it is certainly possible with the Lakers winning more championships that the public turned against their success and rooted more for the underdog. These reputations appear to follow these two teams even today. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, one of the most prolific scorers to ever play the game, is not considered to be a great leader. He has multiple championship rings and seems to be the leader of his team, but the public does not view him highly. On the other side, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have gained the public’s adoration. They are viewed as great leaders to not only their teams, but also their communities. These two players continue the perception of hard work and physical play, and appear to benefit from that in the public eye.
Whatever the end result might be for who is determined a leader, it seems the public bases their opinions more on external circumstances and perceptions than on true leadership qualities.