I thoroughly enjoyed the NBA finals this year. Specifically, I enjoyed Steve Kerr and Mark Jackson and the juxtaposition of the two. Kerr the current coach and Jackson the former coach who built the foundation for the Warriors run to a championship.jim fiore

I’m a firm believer champions are so much more than what we see on the field, court, etc. To me, “real” champions are people who give and show respect to their elders, to those that supported them when unknown and when most needed. “Real” champions are those that remain humble and classy in the most difficult of times. They show leadership and dignity when its easy to run or fuel anger or resentment. “Real” champions don’t just encourage you when you are striving and thriving, they lift and carry you when you stumble and fall. They lead in toughest of times and have appropriate messages in best of times.

BOTH Steve Kerr and Mark Jackson are “real” Champions…. here’s why:

I recently watched an interview with Steve Kerr, first year head coach of the 2015 NBA world champion Golden State Warriors. I always enjoyed and admired Kerr from afar; from his college playing days at Arizona, through his NBA career as a player and role player, into his career as a media member and broadcaster and now as a new head coach in the NBA. Heck, I even enjoyed his articulate and thoughtful analysis on my sons video games as the commentator for NBA 2K series! All that said, nothing he’s ever said hit me harder than when I heard him say the following in an interview about his parents:

“My parents literally showed me a whole world that existed beyond typical American culture. They gave me an education in understanding people, in being compassionate and respectful. They taught me that people may speak or dress differently, or have customs or beliefs foreign to me. It was important to not only understand those differences, but to embrace them as well.”

Kerr’s statement was pure Class, respect, maturity, leadership and humility …. it showed why he is a “real” champion. I sent a text to my son this morning with the aforementioned quote and the following introduction:
Dear son, You should know your mom and dad try to do same for you. We love you. Have a great day. Daddy

On the other hand, there was Mark Jackson, sitting court side, serving as an analyst in front of the largest TV audience to watch the NBA Finals. The FORMER coach of the Golden State Warriors. Fired a year earlier after building a team from an “also ran” to play-off contender in three short years. After inheriting a team that had made the playoffs just once in the previous 17 years, Jackson took a team with a 23–43 record during his first season and led the Warriors to a 47–35 record and a sixth place seeding in the Western Conference in his second season. It was the first time the Warriors had made the playoffs since the 2006–07 season. The Warriors defeated the Denver Nuggets 4–2 in the first round of NBA Playoffs, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs 4–2 in the Western Conference Semifinals. The following season, the Warriors improved to 51–31, the team’s first season with 50 or more wins since 1993-94. They reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992. However, the Warriors lost the first round of the playoffs to the LA Clippers in seven games and he was fired on May 6, 2014.

So, last night as his former organization, former employer and former athletes were celebrating there first NBA title in 40 years, there sat Jackson having to address and analyze the championship, watch from court side and talk to millions upon millions of viewers about the scene unfolding in front of him. What did he do? He showed poise, humility, class, dignity and respect. He took the high road and praised his former employer and celebrated the coach that replaced him and praised the work ethic and commitment of the players. Here is a quote he said at the end of the telecast that I immediately wrote down and shared with my son in a teaching moment about total class & humility displayed by Mark Jackson:

“This is about them. Steve Kerr and this organization. It’s their moment. They earned it and should celebrate it.”

I can’t reiterate enough what it truly means to be a “Real” champion, but we can take the cues of two “Champions” in Steve Kerr and Mark Jackson. Thank you to both for allowing teachable moments for kids and adults alike.

Stay positive … have faith … be good to others

Be well,