We've all seen how much fun the Cleveland Cavaliers have had this year. They waltzed their way through the soft Eastern Conference with few distractions along the way.
We've seen how close they are as a team and know how much LeBron James' teammates enjoy playing with him. We know how much the Cavaliers love to horse around before and after games. On the surface they appear to have perfect team chemistry.
With that said, there is one thing that we have not yet seen from James or the Cavaliers: leadership.
Dunking, rebounding and passing do not define leadership. These all come by simply playing the game and no one can play the game like James. James is the closest we may ever see to a one-man show, but his teammates must contribute and someone needs to hold them accountable. He cannot win without them.
No one on the Cavaliers is capable of taking the role of leader in Cleveland but James. Mo Williams, Delonte West, and the gang do not need a buddy.
It's great that James is a phenomenal choreographer of the Cleveland pregame circus, but someone has to step up and get in the face of a teammate when it's necessary. It must be LeBron James.
No one can question LeBron's effort on the court. In fact, he has dominated this entire playoffs from a statistical standpoint, but how many times has he given his teammates anything more than a pat on the back?
There must be some accountability on the court.
Compare the dynamics of the Cavs to the Bulls dynasty. The players didn't play just for Phil Jackson. They played for Michael Jordan. How many times did Jordan ream out a teammate? How many players on the Bulls even enjoyed playing with Jordan?
On the contrary, it is well documenting how unpopular Jordan was with many of his teammates.
In the real world, a good supervisor is rarely a likeable, loveable supervisor. In fact, there is usually a healthy level of intimidation that comes along with being the leader.
Bryant, now 30 years-old, has become the undeniable leader of the Lakers. The team plays for Phil Jackson, but everyone answers to Kobe. The players have embraced their role and responded by overcoming adversity throughout these playoffs.
In game five against the Nuggets, Bryant seemed overmatched at times and struggled against the tough defense of J.R. Smith. He played his worst game of the series by far, but remained in control of the team. He barked at his team the entire fourth quarter while watching them hit big shots again and again.
The Cavaliers have faced their first real test of the season in this Orlando series.
James has put up all-world numbers in these playoffs. He is never overmatched, but seems unfazed by the lack of support by his teammates. It's time for James to stop being the nice guy and start demanding more from his teammates on the court.
At 23, James is the youngest player to face this much responsibility as leader of an NBA contender. With so much basketball ahead of him, he certainly has time to develop as a leader.
If he stays healthy, it won't be long before James is mentioned in the same breath as Jordan, Russell, and Magic, but not until he develops one final aspect of his game—one that doesn't even involve a basketball.