Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Space Jam: A New Legacy

A Reel Leadership Article

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This past weekend, the sequel to the 1996 live-action and animated mixed movie Space Jam was released to theaters and streaming on HBO Max. Instead of Michael Jordan, the main stars were LeBron James and Cedric Joe as his son, Dominic James.

The story is similar but different enough that the movie is entertaining. I’d say the movie was more than entertaining. It was a great break from reality and a nice jaunt into a mixed animation/live-action world where we are taught a great story about letting others thrive in their skills and talents.

LeBron James hugging Bugs Bunny in Space Jam: A New Legacy

In my upcoming book, Reel Leadership, I interviewed Daniel Knudsen. He introduced me to Michael Jordan’s screenwriter, Stanley D. Williams. Williams wrote a book called The Moral Premise. In it, he says every great movie has a moral premise. I clearly saw a moral premise in Space Jam: A New Legacy.

The moral premise? When you try to conform others to be like you, you will push them away and relationships will be damaged. When you accept that the people around you are different, your relationships will be strengthened and they will shine.

Space Jam: A New Legacy shares more ideas than this. Space Jam: A New Legacy goes into the realm of leadership as well. There are plenty of leadership lessons in Space Jam: A New Legacy. We’re going to dive into those in today’s article.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Space Jam: A New Legacy

1. Coach C (Wood Harris):

Getting your head in the game begins before you even step foot on the court.

Coach C was the coach of young LeBron James. Young LeBron had become distracted after his friend had given him an original Nintendo Gameboy. He began to play it while sitting on the bench.

The distraction caused him to miss his call into the game. Then, with his head still not in the game, he missed a game-winning shot.

Bummer!

We have to prepare ourselves mentally before we lead. If your head is not in the game, we will not lead effectively.

How do you get your head in the game? Read a short devotional or leadership blog (like this one!) before heading into the office or when you first arrive at your desk. Get your mind set on what is in front of you.

2. People need affirmation:

LeBron pushed his son hard. He wanted to see Dom become a great basketball player. There was a problem. Basketball wasn’t Dom’s thing. Coding and programming were.

LeBron’s wife, Kamiyah (Sonequa Martin-Green), saw him berating Dom. She couldn’t let this stand.

Kamiyah approached LeBron. She told him that their son didn’t need what he was giving. She told him Dom needed affirmation.

In the high-stakes world of leadership, giving your team affirmation may be the furthest thing from your mind. You’re thinking of what needs to be done, what’s been missed, and how things are going to get done. You’re not thinking of coddling a team member.

In reality, what you think of as coddling is actually affirmation. You’re affirming who they are and the work they’re doing. You’re helping them to see they are a valuable part of the team.

Find time today to affirm your team members individually.

3. Kamiyah James:

He doesn’t need a coach. He needs a dad.

This one is for all you fathers out there…

Kamiyah saw what LeBron was doing. She knew coaching wasn’t what Dom needed. He needed something more. He needed his father.

Switching off the leader mode to switch into father mode can be hard. It has to be done though!

Your child doesn’t need the leader mode from you. They need father mode. They need someone who cares about and loves them.

Be a father to your child.

4. LeBron James:

Setbacks happen. Adversity is part of the process.

Dom was a special kid. He had made a great video game at the age of 12. It takes grit, perseverance, and skill to do this.

LeBron and Dom had sat down to play the video game. While playing, LeBron did a signature move. The move crashed the game. The crash caused Dom’s character to be erased.

Dom is distressed by the loss of his character. He had worked so hard to create him just right. His father chose to give him wise advice.

When you run into trouble and hardship, remember the words LeBron spoke to his son:

Setbacks will happen. Adversity is part of the process.

You will stumble while leading. Your team will have trouble. There will be challenges.

This is all part of the leadership process. Embrace it and continue moving forward.

5. Dom James:

It’s not what want, dad.

Dom had wanted to go to the E3 video game coding camp. The coding camp happened the same week as a basketball camp LeBron wanted Dom to attend.

This caused a flare-up in their relationship. The two butted heads regarding where Dom was going to go.

LeBron exerted his authority and tried to force Dom to go to basketball camp. Dom raised his voice and let LeBron know that is now what he wanted to do.

It will do you well to listen to what your team members want. They may have a different idea of how to proceed with a project. Maybe they have been experimenting with a new process and they’ve seen success.

Listen to them. Hear them out. Put your desires aside. Let them share what they want to do and what they’ve discovered.

They may push your organization to the next level with the innovation they’ve discovered.

6. Rejects can win:

Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle who played Rhodey in Avengers: Endgame and Infinity War) was the main protagonist in Space Jam: A New Legacy. He was a computer algorithm that was supposed to come up with new ideas. One of Al’s ideas was presented to LeBron. LeBron laughed at the idea and rejected it. This hurt Al.

Al sought to have his revenge on LeBron. He sucked LeBron into the digitalized world. There, he sent LeBron to Tune World. Al charged LeBron with finding a team to challenge him in basketball. LeBron was sent to Tune World because it was a world of rejects.

In the end, the Toons win. The rejects become winners.

When you consider who to have join your team, look at the rejects. They may not look like much but they can have much to offer.

The rejects can play by different rules. They have faced adversity and won. Let them have a chance.

7. You lead in a diverse world:

LeBron and Bugs Bunny’s (Jeff Bergman) had to travel to diverse worlds to find their teammates. Their journey led them to the world of the Matrix, Game Of Thrones, Mad Max, Gotham, Wonder Woman‘s world, and more.

Each universe was different. It was diverse. Yet they all existed in the same realm.

We lead in a diverse world.

Every organization is different. Each one is unique.

When we’re aware of this, we can learn to lead better. We can see the differences, we can anticipate the differences.

8. Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson from Daredevil):

A warrior is not only judged by her skills but by her values.

Lola Bunny (Zendaya) was on a quest to become an Amazonian. Bugs and LeBron interrupt her trial. In their effort to get Lola’s attention, Bugs makes a misstep and Lola has to choose whether to save Bugs and LeBron or to win the trial.

Lola chose to turn around and save Bugs and LeBron. This made her lose the trial.

Lola had saved people but lost what was she trying to accomplish. She felt discouraged until Wonder Woman stepped up. Wonder Woman told Lola that values matter and she was an Amazonian.

Do you and your organization believe values matter? Do you live this out?

People will make decisions based on their values and the values your organization espouses. Sometimes values will clash with what may be right for the business. When they do, do you approve of people living out the values of the organization or do you penalize them for living out the values?

We have to remember: VALUES MATTER.

9. The people you lead can teach you:

LeBron went 1-on-1 with his son. They faced off in a basketball contest against one another.

As LeBron was dribbling, he paused. He stopped dribbling. He started talking to his son.

What did he say? LeBron said he was sorry. He apologized.

More than the apology, LeBron let Dom know Dom was teaching him. LeBron’s son was a teacher even though LeBron was the father.

You may think you’re the one with all the wisdom and knowledge. I want to challenge you to think about what your team has to offer.

They are smart. They have experiences that differ from yours.

Try to learn from those you lead. You will learn more than you could imagine.

10. Be yourself:

The Toons had struggled against the Goon Squad. The Goon Squad were super-powered basketball stars. The Goon Squad had the skills and talents that would normally win a game. And they were winning.

The Toons realized something. They were struggling because they were trying to play the game like LeBron would play. They weren’t playing like they would.

When the Toons got to play the game in their style, they began to win.

You may be holding yourself back. Especially if you’re trying to lead like the leader before you.

You’re always going to be one step behind if you’re trying to lead like someone else. Rather, choose to lead as your authentic self.

This way, you will shine. Your skills and talents will be utilized.

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