Although they didn’t meet in the NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James had a different and unexpected conflict near the end of the season. Their contrasting responses to setbacks under pressure point to an important lesson about losing and leading that applies to the workplace.

Throughout this year’s NBA season, fans anticipated and the media touted a potential finals matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the teams with the best win-loss records at the end of the season. .

The matchup would pit the two most recent MVPs in the league and many would say they are the two best players in the world: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

Sports programs featured analyzes of the hypothetical matchup, and stories were published in newspapers and magazines. Even television commercials highlighted the rivalry between the two stars. A strange and popular advertising theme included the mock adventures of Kobe and LeBron as puppets.

But the head-to-head contest between Kobe and LeBron for the championship did not happen. After winning every game in their first two rounds of the playoffs by at least ten points, the Cavaliers were upset by the Orlando Magic, who faced the Lakers for the championship.

The Lakers won convincingly and Kobe was named the most valuable player in the final. As for the anticipated performance challenge between Kobe and LeBron, it has to be said that this was Kobe’s year.

But when it comes to lessons in managing conflict and dealing with difficult people, there was a different, unplanned aspect to their rivalry that Kobe also won hands down.

It had to do with handling oneself with poise and responsibility in defeat. LeBron didn’t; Kobe did it.

When the Cavaliers lost their final game to the Magic, LeBron immediately walked off the floor, not offering his opponents the professional courtesy of handshakes and congratulations. He declined to speak to the media, which is customary and contractually required for players like him, to help enrich the fans’ game experience and understand how players and coaches think and feel. Especially since he is a team leader, he was a poor example to set, uninspiring and not one to emulate. For his actions the league fined LeBron $25K, and in the press he was criticized.

Kobe has his detractors, too, and over the years he’s given them a few things to criticize, but not in this year’s playoffs. Kobe kept his composition throughout the postseason, even when his team lost.

In fact, Kobe did more than simply maintain a dignified demeanor under pressure and in defeat. He took responsibility. When Orlando beat the Lakers in Game 3 of the Finals, Kobe took responsibility. He missed half of his free throws during the game and said that if he had played at the level expected of him, his team would have won that game.

One can apply to the workplace a lesson from this other Kobe vs. LeBron conflict. When competitions and disagreements don’t go your way at work, fierce emotions can shatter your self-control. Don’t let it happen. Remember Kobe vs. LeBron’s choice in hand: Understandable frustration doesn’t have to lead to unprofessional behavior. Remember that, like Kobe in this year’s loss, an isolated “loss” in the workplace could even be an opportunity to lead.