Few athletes face more critics than LeBron James of the Miami Heat. Few athletes handle the criticism better.
This is one of the first questions a reporter asked LeBron after the Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the NBA Finals: “LeBron. Because you beat the Spurs in the Finals last year and won two in a row, you think seeds of doubt creep into their minds especially late in the game in the fourth quarter?”
This is one of the most dangerous questions a reporter can ask not only athletes but also businesses. The question cracks open a door for someone to level criticism against or pass judgment on a competitor. Under such circumstances, we’ve watched athletes utter comments that motivate opposing teams to respond passionately on the court or field. We’ve watched executives spew sarcastic remarks about competitors and then later regret their words. During media training mock interviews, businesses often struggle with questions about rivals.
This was LeBron’s response to the question:
“I mean that’s not our concern. All we worry about is what we can control and that’s just how we play the game, how we approach the game both physically and mentally and live with the results.”
Slam dunk! In general, don’t speak about competitors. Let them speak for themselves. Focus on your products and services. Highlighting your company’s strengths and advantages is a better play than trying to score points by breaking down a competitor’s values or ideas. The fact LeBron can calmly draw up such answers after feeling the heat from critics shows why, in this particular instance, he displayed skills of a media training king. For several weeks, reporters have hammered LeBron with questions that would irritate most people and persuade them to lash out. LeBron has stood steady. For businesses, running the right play is not so simple when reporters are playing rough and getting under your skin.