Perhaps one of the most touted National Basketball Association (NBA) players is Lebron Raymone James. That cult status often drew comparisons with another legend Michael Jordan, though Lebron never facilitates such talk. He never needed them as he himself had etched his name in the famed NBA gallery of greats.
Eight consecutive NBA finalists between 2011-18 NBA seasons had Lebron on the line-up. The teams he propelled to the pinnacle eight times on the trot were Cleveland Cavaliers or Miami Heat.
The celebratory efforts do not end there. Lebron James has claimed three NBA Championships and the Most Valuable Player title four times. Towering above the rest, this six-feet-nine-inch NBA phenomenon was also the most valuable player of the Finals thrice. Two Olympic Gold Medals too adorn his showcase.
So it is only natural that Lebron himself would want to claim a coveted place among all-time greats of the game. So there is no reason why Lebron would tinker with comparisons to Michael Jordan. Or for that matter, anyone else.
The perils of success
The problem with success is that it comes with great ordeals, of now having to carry the weight of expectations – one’s own and those of others. This is where most greats falter, but not Lebron. What helped him sail through these difficulties was perhaps the indomitable spirit he had imbibed facing the many hardships of his childhood.
Lebron never had an easy life. His mother Gloria Maria James struggled to keep him away as far as possible from the crime-infested neighbourhoods of Akron, Ohio where he grew up in.
Her final decision was to allow young James to move in with a local football coach, Frank Walker and his family. It was destiny at play, for it was this very Walker who introduced young James to basketball when he was barely nine.
There was no stopping him after. Young James soon became the Lebron we know, striking gold for the colours he played for, and he rising to the ranks of greats.
Later, his decision to quit his hometown team Cleveland Cavaliers, where he had been a prominent figure from 2003 to 2010, came as a shock to many. His move to Miami Heat was celebrated as The Decision in an ESPN Special and remains still one of the most widely discussed (criticised) free agent moves in basketball history.
With the Heat, James won his first two NBA championships to make up for not having the coveted title in the 2012 and 2013 seasons itself. Yet, something ate him from within.
Success, Lebron learned, is like a tree that seeks the star. If it does not have strong roots, it is likely going to fall.
I’m coming home
What separates Lebron from the rest is perhaps his decision to return (when most would rather stomp ahead). A return back to his roots, back to his hometown, where he was once a nobody.
It is a story of how in one stroke Lebron James reimagined the life of his young peers in the place where he was born and brought up.
Lebron opted for an essay in Sports Illustrated to announce his return to Cleveland after four seasons with Miami Heat. There was no press conference and no TV bytes. James just did it in his unique style.
he wrote in the article narrated by Lee Jenkins as told by Lebron.
He did elaborate on his move to Miami and his decision to go back to Cleveland. There was no nitpicking. And fault-finding was not the mission.
There were no claims of a championship promise either. Lebron James wanted kids in Northeast Ohio to know that “there’s no better place to grow up”. And these hundreds of kids were backed to the hilt by his foundation.
That was a class act. Only a player of Lebron James’ stature could make such a profound statement. One of America’s most celebrated sportsperson just exhorted his fellow countrymen to grab an opportunity to change their lives forever.
The essence of a journal
There’s much to be learned from Lebron’s story – lessons of passion, persistence, humility and above all, compassion.
It is difficult today, given how fast we move and communicate, to ensure that what we do and say are not swaying from our beliefs, our core principals. In the white heat of the moment, we often fall prey to peer-pressure and challenges that the circumstances throw at us. But we must remain rooted.
What may help is keeping a journal. All good leaders do it. It is a reminder of who you are, a lesson from your past to direct your future. Like Lebron we too must return to the very element that made us, to really grow, to seek the star.