Pat Riley is an accomplished coach. A successful general manager. A natty dresser. A charismatic speaker. Yet in sealing the deal on the biggest free agent coup of the nascent decade -- what, you were thinking Steve Blake to the Los Angeles Lakers? -- the Miami Heat president won over LeBron James by employing the oldest, most-underrated getting-to-yes trick in the negotiating book.
He brought stuff.
When the New York Knicks met with James, they reportedly showed him a video featuring "The Sopranos." Ditto for the Cleveland Cavs, who screened a personalized cartoon rife with in-jokes. Riley, on the other hand, went old school, medieval, downright Middle Earth. According to Sports Illustrated, The Heat's meeting with James in the IMG offices in downtown Cleveland lasted close to three hours, and Riley was the star. Riley has seven NBA championship rings, and he has three copies of each -- one gold, one silver, one platinum -- to go with whatever he may be wearing on a particular day. He tossed the bag of rings on a table for James to look inside. "Like a weapon," as Riley would describe the scene later. "Hey," said Riley playfully, "try one on. "
Cheesy, right? Of course. But also effective. Remember kindergarden Show-and-Tell, where the kid who brings an actual live puppy to class trumps the kid who brings a picture of a puppy? Grown-up deal-making works exactly the same way. Always has. The Devil didn't go down to Georgia empty-handed; he went with a gold fiddle. Promises are nice, and future prosperity is grand, but nothing beats something you can taste and touch, feel and see, right here and right now. It's just human nature.