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Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast Episode 43: Lamar Stevens

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Men’s Journal’s Everyday Warrior With Mike Sarraille is a podcast that inspires individuals to live more fulfilling lives by having conversations with disrupters and high performers from all walks of life. In episode 43, we spoke to Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lamar Stevens, who scored 1,500+ points and grabbed 600+ rebounds at Penn State before signing with Cleveland in 2020.

Listen to the full episode above (scroll down for the transcript) and see more from this series below.

This interview has not been edited for length or clarity.


Mike Sarraille:
Welcome back to the Men’s Journal Every Day Warrior podcast. I’m your host, Mike Sarraille. I’m here with, Lamar Stevens, forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Previously we’ve interviewed Coach JB and Mike Gansey. Both of them spoke about you with the highest affection. So first off, thank you for joining me. I know this is the first day of practice for you guys as you enter the 2023 season. You pretty excited to kick it back off?

Lamar Stevens:
Yeah, I’m ready to go. Um, I’m going into my third year, um, uh, you know, we have a great group of guys, great group of coaches leading the way for us. So I’m excited about the year.

Mike Sarraille:
Good. You, one of the things is we’re doing research and I, I found this so funny is, uh, probably people, a lot of people don’t know that you are a published author as well,

Lamar Stevens:
<laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. I am. I am. I, uh, I wrote a children’s book when, uh, my senior year of college, um, with, you know, six, uh, six kids in the community that, um, they have, uh, they’ve been diagnosed with down syndrome. We did a lot of, uh, work with, you know, special Olympics and, uh, this thing called the Buddy Walk. So, you know, I, over my four years I was able to develop a great relationship with them. So, uh, with my senior year, me and, uh, our, our PR guy, PJ Mullen, uh, got together and we just came up with a great idea just, you know, through the relationship that we had with those kids.

Mike Sarraille:
So, and the reason I bring this up is, uh, and I read the reason why you did the book and all the work that you did at Penn State. Um, where did this, this service to others come from? Where was that that taught to you? Where was that built in? Cause I’m sure that plays into from both Coach and the GM that you’re one of the most team oriented guys they’ve ever coached.

Lamar Stevens:
Yeah, I think it, uh, it goes, you know, starts with my parents. Um, I’ve just watched, you know, my mom and my dad just always constantly, you know, give back and, you know, reach a lend hand to family or friends and, you know, that’s just kind of, you know, you know what we established as a family of, you know, who we are. You know, we work really hard and then we just give back. Uh, and, you know, that’s something I’ve taken pride in. And also I think Coach Chambers when I was at Penn State helped me, uh, you know, really step into that leadership role and just try to be that example, um, you know, as, as best as I could.

Mike Sarraille:
That, that, that is amazing. So rarely do you hear about in collegiate sports or professional sports where a young player sets the culture in, in a, a specific, uh, direction. Yeah. And, and I’ve, in fact, I’ve never heard of that story, uh, whatsoever, but you’ve come up, not come up with, but you’ve had this, this mentality which you call the j y d the junkyard dog Yeah. Mentality in the calves and the, the, the organization have grabbed that Yeah. To the point where you guys guys pass out the, the, the junkyard dog chain. Yeah. With, with a set of values, man, uh, you, you gotta, you gotta explain this for the listeners where this developed, why you love that mantra so, so much. Yeah. And how you’ve brought that to the, uh, to the gaps.

Lamar Stevens:
Um, I think it’s, again, it goes back to something I learned when I was in college and it’s kind of just like controlling what you can control. Like, you can’t really necessarily control if you’re gonna make shots every night or if the person you’re guarding is gonna make shots. But you know, you can always control your, you know, your energy, your effort and your attitude and those things that I try to make sure I bring every single day, because at the end of the day, that’s all I can control. And I think, you know, just being a dog is something that I take pride in. Um, and kind of, you know, just I think, you know, especially in the nba, if we have a team full of guys that just can believe in that, um, and you know, really pulling in the same direction and, you know, fighting for the same thing, I think that that puts together a really incredible team. And, um, but yeah, I mean, it’s crazy how far, you know, that’s come, it’s something I’m definitely appreciative for and didn’t know it was going to be taken this far. Um, but yeah, I take, uh, extreme pride in just controlling, you know, what I can control. And I think that’s something that every day I can,

Mike Sarraille:
It’s almost your, it’s like you’re preaching stoicism, <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And, and I I’m sure you had no idea how, you know, how far it would come. I mean, you guys are, are doing the dog call before, during, and, uh, and after games. Uh, do, do you view yourself as a leader regardless of how many years you have in the, uh, the league? I mean, do you see yourself as that driving force to pick the guys up when they’re, they’re down?

Lamar Stevens:
Uh, I think I consider myself a leader because I just, I mean, I just want the best for everybody. And I think I’ve developed that relationship with the guys that, you know, they know like, I might get on you, I may like call you out or, you know, talk trash to you, but, you know, it’s all love and I really just want the best for, you know, everybody on the team. So, um, I, I think that I could consider myself a

Mike Sarraille:
Leader. Damn. Right. And, and what you just described, I often talk about, um, a lot of people get it wrong in the military that they think we, you, you know, we bark at people and just they run off and do things, is actually, we, we lead through love. Right? What you just described I talk about to companies a lot is, uh, the highest form of compassion, right. Uh, is accountability. Yeah. But you just like, I may get on you because that, that’s, cuz I know you’re, you’re better than that and I love you. I don’t wanna see you, you put out. Um, so that, I mean, this is, it, it makes me smile the fact that regardless of where you’re at in an organization, I think that the, the, the thing to take away for our listeners is you can impact an organization, whether you’re the team captain, uh, or, or, or sitting on the bench or, or even, uh, behind the scenes supporting the team. Yeah. You make an impact. Yeah.

Lamar Stevens:
And that’s, yeah, and I mean, I came in pretty much like in, uh, for everybody else’s terms, like, and as a walk on, kind of like as the 17th guy on the, on the roster outta 17, um, from the first day that I got here coming in on a two-way contract. And, um, you know, just over the years, you know, just meeting the great people that here, I just was able to beat myself. And that’s just, you know, something I took pride in, you know, coming from college, being the number one guy to now the next year, now I’m like the last guy on the totem pole was, it was a humbling experience, but it helped me, like, I felt like to be a leader, you have to also, you know, be able to do the work, um, and show, you know, like, you are not gonna always be the top guy and you gotta work your way up. And, and, and that’s just something I really took pride in.

Mike Sarraille:
Well, the top guy by himself, uh, will lose. Right. Uh, but a team hot damn. It’s amazing what we can do when we, when we work or part of a team. Absolutely. So I, I was gonna bring that up, you know, you called it a walked on, you went undrafted, but then you walked on with the, uh, the Cleveland Cav Cavaliers on that, that contract in a Penn State. You were dependent not only to defend, but to put some serious points on the board. Yeah. And to, to my understanding what I’ve been told, you know, Cleveland looked at you and said, we need you to be the best defensive player, the one that, that you know, the best players in, in the league that have to go up against you or be like, damn, Lamar’s right. Guarding me, man. Yeah. What, what sort of, when they asked you that, what was the mentality? Uh, what was your approach to that?

Lamar Stevens:
Uh, just to really be, you know, what the team needed. Um, I think that like, everybody has a role and, you know, just trying to buy into being the best at what was asked of me, um, to just help the team win was something I took real pride in. And, um, you know, that’s what, what got me on the floor. So, um, that was something like, and that was what JB asked of me, that was Mike GK ass, me and Kobe. Um, so, you know, that was my role. The, that’s still my role and I, you know, that’s just my, what I have to do for our team right now. So,

Mike Sarraille:
Yeah. Have you learned to love that though?

Lamar Stevens:
I learned to love it. Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I’ve completely changed my game because I really didn’t play much defense at all at Penn State, like until like the fourth quarter when they would switch me on to the Yep. Best player. Um, but now it’s like from the jump, like, I wanna stop everybody.

Mike Sarraille:
What, what is that like now that you have a reputation of you don’t care right? Who you’re going against in the league, you’re you’re gonna give him hell.

Lamar Stevens:
Um, I mean, I think that it’s, like I said, it’s something I really enjoy. Like it’s something, it’s just, I think it’s just constant learning. Like, um, I think felt like my first year was just natural ability of just being athletic and, you know, but the more I’ve studied the game, the more I’ve like dived into becoming a better defender. It’s, it’s a fun process and, you know, trying to stop some of the best scores in the league and or in the world. Um, and it’s like a chess match, so, you know. Yeah. Um, I think it’s fun. I think it’s fun for me and it’s like, it’s constant because every night is somebody different. Somebody may shoot three as well, somebody may get to the mid-range or somebody may be a really good driver and a freak athlete like Zion Williamson or something like that. So, um, like it is just a chess match every night. And I, I think it’s fun getting in involved in that. What’s

Mike Sarraille:
What’s your process for when you know you’re growing up against one of those players? I mean, are you, you watching tapes? What’s, what’s your preparation process for that?

Lamar Stevens:
Yeah, I’m watching a lot of film. Um, and that’s really the biggest thing for me, just watching a lot of film. We do a lot of defensive stuff in practice already. Um, but leading into the game rest of my body and just watching film and seeing what they like to do, what they don’t like to do, um, in ways that, you know, we can make it difficult on ’em when they, when they play against us.

Mike Sarraille:
You know, Lamar, you’ve, you’ve had some, well, one, it sounds like your parents were your ultimate coaches and mentors. Sure. Um, and, and that that’s an indicator of who you are and the character that, that you are as a man today. But you’ve also had some great coaches, mentors along the, uh, the way for our listeners who are, you know, may lack traditional coaches, mentors like you’ve had, what are probably some of the, the most valuable leadership principles you’ve learned that have served you well today? Discipline, hard work. Yeah. Persistence. What, what, what are the, those top three that stand out to you?

Lamar Stevens:
Uh, I would definitely say discipline is probably my first. Um, because there’s gonna be days where you’re tired and you don’t want to do it, and that’s everybody. Um, and I think, you know, having that discipline to still get up and do it every day, um, and then I think you have to be a hard worker, um, just to continue to elevate and to continue to grow. Um, and then the last one I would say is probably like being able to communicate, um, with a bunch of different, with a bunch of different people, um, and being able to relate to them and know who you could talk to a certain type of way and yeah. How to get the best outta this person versus that person. So did

Mike Sarraille:
The, the best leaders I’ve ever served with knew how to switch up their communication style depending on who they were talking to. Yeah. But yeah. And you, you also just sort of brought up empathy Yeah. Is key to, uh, to communication as well. Putting yourself Sure. In, in the shoes of the people that you’re talking to and trying to understand what they’re, uh, they’re, they’re feeling. Um, you know, one of the questions we ask on this show, um, and you are far from it, but sometimes I interview guests in their, uh, sixties, seventies, uh, where they know they’re on the latter half of their life for you, when all is said and done, and that times come, let’s say 80 years from now. Yeah. Uh, you know, 70 years from now, God willing, uh, how are you gonna look back on your life and measure whether Lamar lived a life of impact and of service to others?

Lamar Stevens:
Uh, I think I’ll measure my life just probably by the relationships that I’ve built. Um, you know, the genuine relationships that I’ll be able to still have and people that I was able to impact, you know, in my community, you know, and, and just in life. So I think that’s probably what brings me like the most joy being able to help somebody else. So as long as I, I can say that, you know, I’ve impacted, I don’t even if it’s three people, I feel like it would, I’ll be Phil. Really good about that.

Mike Sarraille:
I I’d love that you just said that. It sounds like quality over quantity. Yeah. And I know in an age where, you know, social media is about quantity, not necessarily the, the quality of relationship. Yeah. Well, Lamar, I can’t thank you enough for joining us, man. I’m excited to, to watch you on the, uh, the court, the intensity and, uh, you know, the hard work and, and the way you dedicate yourself and sacrifice for the team, I think is something that every young man and woman should watch, right. And, and take away from you. And the fact, again, that you have impacted and created part of history, this young junkyard dog mentality is, uh, I’m, I’m taken back, man. I’m 44 and I’ve worked for some great organizations and I’ve never seen somebody with your tenure come in and impact an organization the way you have. So congrats on that,

Lamar Stevens:
Man. I appreciate that. Appreciate you guys for having me,

Mike Sarraille:
Absolutely. All right, guys, thanks for joining us. Again, this has been the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior. I’m your host, Mike Sarraille. Until next time.

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