NBA coaches have a vast array of ways to motivate and push their team spiritually. Phil Jackson, who many consider the greatest NBA coach of all time, used to light sage to cleanse his team's bad energy in the locker room. Most coaches prefer to give their teams an uplifting speech before games. There are also some coaches who request their players to give up money as a sign to bet on their team's success a.k.a. a Doc Rivers.
How Ty Lue motivated the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers
In the 2016 NBA Finals (yes, that epic LeBron James-led 3-1 comeback against the Golden State Warriors), Ty Lue needed to motivate his team to win Game 5 and extend the series to 7 games. So after a tough Game 4 loss when the Warriors went up 3-1 in the series, Lue requested his team to stay home if they didn't believe they would complete the most daring and remarkable comeback in NBA Finals history.
No Cavs player decided to stay in Clevland and miss the flight to Golden State. Then, Lue asked each player and executive from the organization (from top to bottom) to give $200, which he said he put on the ceiling in the Cavaliers locker room - a trick Doc Rivers pulled in 2010 when the Celtics left money in the Staples Center locker room ceiling, coming to collect in the Finals. It depicted the team going all in together and having a reason to come back to Cleveland.
"So after Game 5, actually, we were going home for Game 5 and I had everybody in the locker room give me $200. So all the players, Mr. Gilbert, Griff, give me $200. They said, 'What are you doing with this money?' and I actually got the video on my phone and I put it in the ceiling and said, 'Are we coming back for Game 7 to get our money?' We go to Golden State and win Game 7 and win the championship. The first thing LeBron asked me 'Hey man, where's our money?' and I said, 'Man, I don't know. It disappeared.' I kept that money for myself," Lue recalled in his latest appearance on "The Old Man & Three podcast."
Lue's motivation tactic worked.
Besides getting his team's mentality and spirits right, Lue deserves a lot of credit for the Cavaliers' epic comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals. He made the right adjustments, and even if the suspension of Draymond Green changed the series by benefiting the Cavs, Lue still outcoached Kerr in the latter part of the series.
Lue knew that his 2016 Cavaliers had what it took to do the impossible and complete the most remarkable comeback in history — but first they had to believe it was possible.