On the onset of each day we awaken with a new sense of purpose. All of the events which have transpired in the previous twenty-four (24) hours no longer quantify the person we aspire to be in the present. Despite our classifications, be it financial, race, gender or religion, we gather ourselves, lace-up our bootstraps, and walk out the door with the intensive purpose of creating a more comfortable today and a better tomorrow. Sacrifices are made, relationships are sometimes severed to reach the pinnacle of success. And upon reaching that summit, we believe that we’ll be absolved of all of our problems and the problems that come from achieving satisfaction will be remedied. However, this is only the beginning. Regardless of your accomplishments, the applause you seek will never come in the form of a standing ovation; the people will clap with you, not for you. They chastise you saying you can’t swim because you walk on water; crucify you for wanting to soar to new heights as opposed to the cumbersome tasks of walking hand to hand, side by side with them as they drag their burdens like an overweight suitcase. Damn… Unpack!
In an age of twenty-four (24) hour news cycles, people’s successes and failures are chronicled instantly on the internet and social media for all to view. This is no more evident than the scrutiny that fell at the pristine feet of LeBron James Thursday night during Game One of the NBA Finals. Ironically, a person who slogan throughout the season has been “Strive for Greatness” couldn’t summon the energy necessary to “will” himself to the finish of his last game played. Throughout the course of the fourth (4th) quarter, at the time was a “hotly” contested game, James began experiencing cramps which eventually lead to his removal from the game and could have possibly contributed to the outcome of a 110-95 defeat of the Miami Heat by the San Antonio Spurs. The pain must’ve have been overwhelming; the grimaces on his face spoke volumes of an individual’s body who had failed him at the most inopportune time. And as he was carried off the floor to the bench by staffers and teammates, the cyberverse burst into outrage. There were talks that LeBron wasn’t tough enough; he’s soft. During the television broadcast ESPN analyst Mark Jackson uttered the following, “If you’re LeBron James, the great ones find a way to tell their body, ‘Not now … I’ll talk to you tomorrow.’” There were individuals trying to create an internet sensation, dubbing it #lebroning, where photos were being taken of people mimicking James being carried off the court. Then of course, there were the pundits, lead by ESPN’s First Take host Skip Bayless leading the chorus as to why the self-proclaimed “King” wasn’t properly hydrated like the other competitors who also endured the almost 90 degree heat felt in the arena. The comparison of other greats poured in; Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) making two (2) free throws after tearing his Achilles tendon in 2013, then walking off the court on his own power; Michael Jordan had the “Flu Game” in 1997 where imagines of “23” collapsing in Scottie Pippen’s arms being lead off the court in a Chicago Bulls’ victory over the Utah Jazz. Asked about the criticism, James simply stated “I’m the easiest target in sports.”
And such is the burden of being dubbed “King” and the best player in the NBA; ruler of all you survey in the basketball universe. You have people you couldn’t walk two (2) flights of stairs without becoming winded, sitting at home behind their keyboards or on their telecommunications devices eating hot dogs, loaded baked potatoes, drinking beer questioning an individual’s toughness. Knowing damn well if they were to receive that same criticism by their peers or superiors for poor job performance, they too would be equally upset and want to file a grievance with their union representative. Or better yet, what if their significant other chastised them for underperformance in the bedroom and an inability to satisfy their sexual desires, boy the rage, alcohol induced tirades and arguments would skyrocket; if that already isn’t the case. We place Michael Jordan on the Mount Olympus of sports icons; convincing ourselves that he would’ve played under the same circumstances as LeBron, and with the current rules, would’ve dropped 60 on Kawhi Leonard. And as the years pass, we make Jordan an indestructible force; comparable to the Juggernaut from the X-Men movie and comic book series. However, we forget that in March of 1995, upon making his return to the Bulls from spending time away playing minor league baseball for the Birmingham Barons, in his first game back, Jordan scored 19 points against the Indiana Pacers, but shot just 7-of-28 from the floor in a 103-96 overtime loss for the Bulls in Indianapolis. Sports Illustrated’s Phil Taylor wrote at the time: “But on Sunday, before the first quarter had ended, the 32-year-old Jordan was bending over and tugging on his shorts, the universal symbol for fatigue, and in the overtime he developed leg cramps. Asked if he was disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to dunk, Jordan replied, “I was cramping so bad I didn’t really want to.” Ah… so MJ too was merely human; subject to all the ills of ordinary men. We expect greatness from those we have adulation for. If Dave Chappelle isn’t funny during his comedy routine, Brittany Spears is discovered to have lip-synced during her music performance or LeBron James fails to deliver in the “clutch”, our dissatisfaction leads us to voice our displeasure by “Boos” or a keyboard tongue lashing on any social media outlet that’ll assist us in championing our cause; and when the venom dissipates, and the event is no longer a story, we aren’t held responsible for our comments; whether the sentiments were justified or in error. We go back about our lives waiting on the next success story for which we can find just cause to tear it down from its pedestal. So for James, the backlash that comes from being a child prodigy, the savior of a city (Cleveland) that hasn’t won a championship in any of the four (4) major sports since 1964 (Cleveland Browns – NFL Championship), and the remnants of “The Decision”, for which he has yet to return to the level of White fans which he had prior to joining the Heat is all encompassing. He’s currently the most polarizing athlete in sports. So as Game 2 approaches and the storylines from the previous game are rehashed, be mindful that you too have a story you’re living on a daily basis; and you’re equally liable for any unfortunate outcomes that take place on your journey. Because we all know, any missteps taken will be compared to past spouses, employees, parents and situations; and how does that make you feel? “We Are The Change!” I’m gone! (b)
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