Congratulations to LeBron James and the Miami Heat on their most recent NBA title. LeBron carried the team to victory in glorious fashion, securing the regular season MVP award, the NBA title and Finals MVP trophy in one gigantic swoosh. Oh yea, he had a triple double in the last game of the title series.
As I watched LeBron mature from a boy to a full grown man, I recall the first time I saw him on television. He was being exploited by ESPN and his high school in a nationally-televised game (he and his family were not compensated for the game, but the school and ESPN made hundreds of thousands of dollars), where he single-handedly elevated a group of regular guys to defeat Oak Hill Academy, the basketball factory that pretends to be a school. At that moment, I knew this dude was something special, even though a friend who teaches at Georgetown University told me that LeBron was going to be a mediocre NBA player. I think I won the bet with my friend with flying colors.
But as I watched LeBron this week, I was reminded that great accomplishments are merely displays and reflections of what you are made of. It’s kind of a show and tell, letting the world know whether you’re a man on the inside or just one of the other nameless, faceless people who talk a good game. That’s where LeBron showed and proved.
Here are a few things that black men can learn from the recent achievements of LeBron James:
1) Hard work always pays off
Unfortunately, commercialized hip-hop culture teaches young black men that life is just a big party, where you stay high and drunk, running from club to club, woman to woman without a care in the world. What they don’t tell you is that the men who think like bosses aren’t wasting their time with all that stupid sh*t. Instead, they are grinding each day, burning the midnight oil, busting their butts to become something special in this world. It doesn’t mean you can’t stop and enjoy the spoils of your success every now and then, but you’ll never get anywhere in life by being lazy, for the man who gets the glory is the one willing to go the extra mile.
2) Consistency is the key to being great at anything
NBA seasons are long, grueling and dull. LeBron played over 100 games this year, and in the midst of such a long journey to the title, it’s easy to get bored and distracted. But when it comes to being successful at anything, consistency is always the key. In my opinion, your life is ultimately defined by what you’re going to be doing in the next six hours. If you have a dream or goal and aren’t going to be doing anything to achieve that goal within the next six hours, I pretty much write off your dream is being the jibber-jabber fantasy of an immature and unrealistic mind.
Your life, outcomes and legacy are not defined by what you coulda-woulda-shoulda done. They are defined by what you do on a day-to-day basis.
3) Always face your limitations and obstacles head-up
When you’re one of the best players in the history of the NBA and making more money than you’ve ever dreamed of, it’s easy to get complacent. LeBron James has been an amazing player since the day he entered the league nine years ago. But in spite of being great players, both he and Michael Jordan faced severe limitations in their games which kept them from obtaining the ultimate prize. It was their decision to face their weaknesses, rather than run away, which allowed them to perform at the highest levels.
Michael Jordan had a saying that I will never forget. He said, “I work on my weaknesses until they become my greatest strengths.” Most people spend their time running away from their weaknesses rather than seeking to overcome them. This ultimately limits their growth.
4) Avoid getting wrapped up in other people’s BS
During a recent interview with ESPN, LeBron admitted that last year, he got caught up in believing the hype about him being the villain of professional sports. Note to LeBron: Black men are almost always the villains in professional sports, largely because you live in a world that thinks most black men are ignorant animals and that the best you can aspire to be is a “n*gga in Paris.” Whether you are an athlete, a college professor, a mailman or a little boy in fifth grade, someone is always sitting back and judging you harshly.
LeBron got the memo and realized that he wasn’t born to be a villain, a jerk, an a**hole or a bad guy: He is a team player who wants to get the best out of those around him. Once LeBron let go of the labels that others thrust upon him and started to be himself, he finally won his first NBA title. For the rest of us, it is our ability to stay the course and keep other people’s problems away that allows us to focus on being the best that we can be: It might mean getting rid of a friend or bad relationship, or simply turning off our phone so we can focus on work we have to do. The point here is that distractions only lead to wasted energy.
5) Remain humble, yet confident
LeBron James is one my of my favorite players for the same reason that Michael Jordan is one of my least favorite: He is a good guy and a smart, humble human being. He doesn’t make himself great by reminding you that he’s better than you (as Jordan did during that horrible Hall of Fame Speech a few years ago). Instead, he shows his greatness by helping teammates and friends find the greatness within themselves.
You don’t hear LeBron talking smack in the media, he’s not out getting arrested for sexual assault; you don’t see stories about him forcing a coach to be fired or making his teammates feel like crap. Even that stupid fiasco last year about the ESPN special (“The Decision”) angered me because the fans of Cleveland were so caught up in hating LeBron that they never stopped to consider the fact that he gave them seven of the best years of his life. The entire time that LeBron was in Cleveland, Nike and everyone else told him that he deserved to be on a bigger stage. But in spite of the peer pressure to leave the city he loved, LeBron stayed and tried to carry the team on his back to a title (which he almost did). That, in a nutshell, defines the kind of person he is.
Congrats LeBron, you deserved your trophy. For every young brother who watched LeBron overcome his obstacles, remember that you can overcome your challenges too. If we commit to giving everything we’ve got, every single day, and don’t stop trying for anything or anyone, we all have what it takes to be a champion.
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