It has been two days since LeBron James got his first ring and to say I am over the moon is putting it lightly. Not only is LeBron James my favorite athlete of all time but never have I been more emotionally involved in someone other than God, my family and close friends. But this is not about me. This is about LeBron James and what I have learned from him. Keep in mind I am not a journalist or anything. Just a fan sharing his opinion. It was in 2003 as a 13 year old eighth grader that I started paying attention to this 18 year old phenom that was about to graduate high school and declare himself eligible for the NBA draft. Here was a guy that had already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16 and had been deemed as the second coming of Michael Jordan before he was officially an adult-Think about it for a second BEFORE HE WAS 18!- But I digress.
Everything seemed to come easy to him. Upon graduating from high school, he was given a 90-plus- million dollar contract by Nike before playing his first NBA game and he was the darling of the media. Everybody loved him and how could you not? Here was a guy that had put up a 25 point, nine assist, six rebound and four steal effort on 12-of-20 shooting in his first NBA game against the Sacramento Kings. Here was a guy that had a triple double in his first ever playoff game. And who can forget his memorable game against the Detroit Pistons where he scored 29 of his team’s last 30 points.
Then there’s the fact that he reached his first NBA Finals at the tender age of 22. Albeit he ended up getting swept by the Spurs, LeBron was universally recognized as a man that had arrived and certainly deserving of all his monikers. He was the face of the NBA. Not many had anything negative to say about him. The MVP trophies came, the scoring title came, the All-Star MVP trophies came. All that was left to do was to win that NBA trophy but 3 point shooting Orlando Magic and the veteran savvy Boston Celtics would prove to be roadblocks along the way. At this point, some people had begun to doubt his ability to win an NBA finals trophy but he still wasn’t seen as a villain.
So after 7 years of constantly trying to win an NBA trophy and constantly falling short, he was a free agent and had to make a big “decision”. Little did he know that the decision he would make would forever change his reputation and the way he would come to be viewed. Ah that word, decision- such a simple word that means -a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration- would end up taking a life of its own.
On July 8, 2010, LeBron James announced that he was taking his “talents to South Beach” in a television special called "THE DECISION" and all hell broke loose! LeBron became a villain. His Jersey was being burned in his hometown, his former owner wrote a letter that absolutely vilified him and essentially called him a quitter and as if that wasn't enough he was being ridiculed by sports pundits and former players as a coward for supposedly taking the easy way out.
All of a sudden, he found himself in a position that he had never been in before. He seemingly had more “haters” than fans. A darling of the media had become a lightning rod and the most polarizing figure ever in sports. He was the brunt of so many jokes and his home state that usually rallied around him had deserted him.
So a guy that was forced to grow up quickly as a teenager and had been thrust into the national spotlight when most people were struggling with Algebra. A guy that had to take care his family since he was 13. A guy that had literally grown up before our eyes and anointed so many things was now the most hated player in the NBA and arguably the most hated athlete in the world because he decided to do what he thought best for himself.
Ask yourself how would you feel if you were suddenly hated and couldn’t go home and feel loved anymore? It cannot be easy right? But he had to shake all that off and move to a new city because he felt he was doing the best thing he thought would bring him a trophy- the one thing many thought would cement his legacy- and labor through a season where he would be booed in virtually every arena not named the American Airlines Arena.
He would eventually get his wish and reach the NBA finals in his first year but as we all know he and his teammates came up short.
The former face of the NBA now a villain had reached the top and now had reached rock bottom. He was in really unfamiliar territory now and what he decided to to do would pave the way for his redemption and ultimately his coronation. He would introspectively look at himself and figure out what he needed to do in his personal and professional life to improve as a person and work on those things.
He would work on his post game with Hakeem Olajuwon, rediscover the joy he found in playing basketball, propose to his longtime girlfriend and move his family to Miami. So throughout the course of the 2011-2012 season he would improve his game, surround himself with his family and friends and just play the game of basketball the way only he knows how to play. With joy.
This change was rewarded with his third MVP trophy, his first Finals MVP trophy, and his first Finals trophy.
It was not easy though. Take away the New York series, LeBron James and the Heat faced adversity every step of the way. Down 2-1 against the Pacers, Bosh out for most of that series, Down 3-2 against Boston, Bosh out for most of that series as well, Down 1-0 against Oklahoma and according to ESPN, Miami were the overwhelming underdogs.
Despite all that, LeBron James and the Heat prevailed and the road to redemption for LeBron was complete on Thursday June 21st 2012. The former media darling/ridiculed villain had vindicated himself and even his “haters” were forced to WITNESS greatness and hail King James.
I write all this not only to celebrate Lebron James but to show the world that even when one seemingly has everything, hard work, perseverance, and fortitude always wins out. It took 9 long years but it all panned out for leBron James and the rest of the world can learn from this. If you have a dream, go pursue it and be willing to do the work. In addition to that, make sure you have the right foundation of good friends and family around you.
-A Long Time LeBron James Fan Tayo Rockson