If you’ve read RELENTLESS, and you’re familiar with the characteristics for Coolers, Closers, and Cleaners, you won’t be surprised that I’m constantly asked which players fit which category. Among NBA players, I get more questions about LeBron James than about any other player, probably since I wrote in the original hardcover book (in 2013) that I did not yet consider him a Cleaner.
When the paperback was published in 2014, I added a new introduction, and addressed this topic again. Below is the excerpt about LeBron, which I wrote after the 2012-13 NBA season. Just keep in mind: A true Cleaner gets the end result over and over, not just once or even twice. Staying at the top is harder than climbing there.
On the question of who’s a Cleaner and who’s not: As you will see, I say repeatedly in the book that prior to the 2013 NBA season, LeBron still had something to prove before he could be considered one of the “best ever,” which is what others were beginning to call him. To me, he was still not a Cleaner. He had won a single championship, and I wanted to see him do it again. He didn’t have to take full responsibility for the entire team as a Cleaner does. He was playing alongside Dwyane, one of the greatest players in the game. Everything had been handed to him since he was a kid in high school; I wanted him to show he had earned it. Everyone was comparing him to the greatest legends of the game–show us you deserve the comparison.
His physical gifts and superlative talent had very little to do with ultimately making him a Cleaner, because it’s not about skill or talent. It was the fact that he took the pressure from winning the first ring in 2012, used it to drive himself harder for the second ring in 2013, and he carried his team on his back to get it. Complete focus, in the Zone, never letting up until he got the end result. And as soon as that second championship was his, he immediately said: I’m going to come back a better player. Still not satisfied. That is a Cleaner.
Excerpted from RELENTLESS: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, by Tim S. Grover. All rights reserved.