Dave Meltzer discusses Kyrie Irving and the role of ego in decision-making

Isolate your Ego: Kyrie Irving and Selfish Decision-Making

EGO and Edging Goodness Out 

Ego is a human’s perception and embodiment of self-importance and righteousness. Simply put, it is the line between cockiness and confidence.   

I like to talk about the power of one’s ego and its effect on someone when challenged and pushed to extreme limits. Edging goodness out is allowing your ego to manipulate your path to opportunity by pushing away happiness and potential success.  

Teams and Egos 

In sports, you see a saturated market of competing egos and righteous individuals—on and off the field. Every sport has their ego-dominating athletes, but in my opinion, the game of basketball illuminates the greatest egos.  

On the court, there are 10 competing egos (not including coaches or refs), challenging one another and creating tension with each pass and shot. These egos are fueled by finances, physical ability, but most importantly, playing time.  In order to win in the NBA today, most people think you need to have a “Big 3”, which means we have three dominating egos competing against one another.  The key to molding three dominating egos into one collective belief, call it camaraderie or teamwork, is to focus on taking the negative emotion out of the decision-making process.   

Go Ahead, Be Selfish 

According to some, including the Harvard Business Review, being a selfish leader can actually be beneficial for an organization.  Being a selfish leader means having the ability to remove the harmful emotions and negativities that distract us from a clear and effective decision-making process.  

We become selfish leaders when we identify and solely focus on the needs of our egos. The egos needs are centralized around the need to be right, the need to be offended, and the need to be superior over others. Focusing on these different demanding needs, in oneself, makes an NBA leader hyper-competitive and dominating on the court. There needs to be an ego-driven demand to be superior in order to be successful, but being egocentric does not mesh well with the concept or atmosphere of a team. We need to learn to fight these negative emotions and control them to allow ourselves to stay surrounded by goodness (and attain championships). 

Common Ego Issues in NBA Organizations 

Problem: When you have several superstars on a squad, there is always one who gets more of a focus. In the case of the Cavaliers, LeBron James obviously hogs a lot of the team’s spotlight and has a lot of resources dedicated to him. This perceived uneven treatment has helped to push another star away in Kyrie Irving. 

Solution: Instill a workplace culture that supports employee/teammate well-being on every level (professional, emotional, and social). Make sure to provide everyone with support, instead of just focusing on the people you pay the most. 


Problem: People feel stuck in a certain role or position and do not see a way for them to advance. Again, being the second in command of a basketball team is not something that Kyrie Irving’s ego was used to before LeBron came to town. As a result, Irving has undertaken a pursuit to find a team that offers the responsibilities and prerequisites that come with being the “top dog”. 

Solution: Offering growth and development opportunities for employees and teammates, no matter what their position in an organization is.  Without an ability to advance in an organization, people are always going to find a way to leave.  


Problem: When one member of a team gets more recognition than others, it can damage the team dynamic irreparably. This is especially true for the Cavs, with LeBron James being one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet. 

Solution: Build acknowledgments into the culture of team or company in order to express your appreciation for the accomplishments you attain individually and as a group. If the Cavaliers paid more attention to Kyrie and recognized the value he brings to the organization, he would be much less likely to leave the team. 

Be Strong  

One of the best ways to create a great team atmosphere is to focus on ego strength, which is the extent to which we learn to face and grow from the challenges in our lives. Challenges force us to grow by strengthening our relationship management skills between yourself and others.  Creating a strong bond with your internal values will stop all of these negative emotions and needs of the ego from edging goodness out. Those with a strong ego are accepting of rejection as a fact of life, and thus do not have a need to be offended. A positive mindset and the ability to bounce back from mistakes on and off the court means being able to see opportunities in failure. Personal accountability, what some call an “internal locus of control”, is another component of a strong ego that enables us to take control of our own situation. 

“We” Over “Me

Some call the drawbacks of ego the “disease of me“; when talented leaders grow weary of taking a back seat to other dominating egos, and hunger for the acclaim and money they feel are their due. The Golden State Warriors seem to have figured out how to operate with several superstar players and, yet, they haven’t been undermined by the ego of their stars. Being able to control the Warriors’ egos has allowed the team to play cohesively and create a team ego. I believe that “collective belief” is the true key to conquering championships.  The Warriors have a collective belief to play the best, work the hardest, and strive together towards one goal.  

Never Edge Goodness Out 

If we do not want to edge goodness out of our lives, our business, and our play, let’s take note of the NBA and how three megastars can play together and combine to win or achieve their potential.

By: Dave Meltzer

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