It’s hard to watch LeBron James and not be amazed by his once-in-a-lifetime physical and athletic skills. Seriously, how many players have the physical tools that he has? When he was first tabbed on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2002 as “The Chosen One,” he burst on the scene as this man-among-boys figure destined to make us forget about Oscar and MJ. With LeBron now in his prime and attempting to fulfill his promise of multiple NBA titles in Miami, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking his rise to NBA glory happened in a heartbeat. That’s the myth – players everywhere thinking their rise to basketball glory will happen overnight. And even if that glory is starting on an eighth grade team, making the varsity, or being the next one-and-done freshman at Kentucky, we live in an instant gratification society that tells us if it doesn’t happen right away to complain, blame others, or even quit. The myth of LeBron James, of thinking it will happen overnight for all of us, is a trap for players of all levels and dealing with this type of myth is an important lesson off the court as well.
BASKETBALL – Show some patience!
While James was named the Rookie of the Year with Cleveland, and was the youngest player ever to record a triple-double, his team did not make the playoffs in his first two years. Even though he has led Miami to consecutive championships, it’s easy to overlook that even King James had to make adjustments in the NBA. He had to learn to communicate with teammates, grasp scouting reports, and find a way to effectively blend his talents with the talents of his teammates. For a detailed look, read Grantland.com’s The Evolution of King James.
Our college team, like every other team, is dealing with the LeBron Myth this week as we wrap up our pre-season. Many newcomers to college basketball fall into the trap of thinking they’ll suddenly burst on the scene. While some may step in immediately as four-year starters, there are others who may have to wait their turn, learn a new philosophy, or accept a role that is new to them. Since our team lacks experience and we have a larger than usual newcomer group, we’ve had to discuss the expectations that come with the LeBron Myth. Unfortunately, I’ve seen far too many promising players give up or transfer at the first sign of adversity. Here are a few ideas, (actually a few things I need to get off my chest) that coaches and players should consider when making an adjustment to a new level of basketball:
1) Focus on the process of learning: Even if you think you know all you need to, you can learn more from new coaches and teammates. Embrace the idea of being coachable.
2) Value relationships: New relationships mean new ideas. Learning to trust and communicate is essential to deal with new situations.
3) Develop daily habits: It’s important to have goals, but don’t get sidetracked by assuming things are going to progress according to your expectations. Focus on getting better each day.
4) Consider the source of expectations: If your expectations are based on outside forces like family, fans, and other outsiders you’ll have a tough time. Realign those expectations with those of your team.
LIFE – What do you mean I can’t have it now?
So how often do you fall into the trap of thinking things should happen perfectly at the drop of a hat? Fast food, the internet, iPhones, and all the other “advancements” lead us to be impatient, demanding, and honestly, spoiled. We want to be LeBron. We want it to work out right away. We’re told we can have what we want, when we want it. Think about how that attitude has affected our nation in recent years. Consider how devastating that attitude can be in your personal finances. I love the Saturday Night Live skit from a few years ago:
Funny, but true, isn’t it? In this fast food, “have it now” society, too many of us lack the patience and commitment to work for the future.
FAITH – Myth Busting
Josh McDowell is one of my favorite Christian authors. At first a skeptic, McDowell spent years looking for evidence that a loving God does NOT exist. He couldn’t find any and became a leading voice in helping young people answer questions about faith. In Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door, Josh and his coauthor, Bob Hostetler, compiled a thought-provoking list of myths our society has developed about God. Many of these myths, like “the vending machine myth,” are traps that we easily fall into and cloud our vision of the true nature of God. God is not a vending machine that instantly gives you what you want. As a loving God, he freely offers his blessings and love in a way uniquely designed to draw each of us closer to him. Just like players dealing with the LeBron myth, we can develop distorted myths about God. Focus on learning more about Him, commit to improving your relationship with Him, develop daily spiritual habits, and get your expectations about God in tune with who he really is. And finally, be patient and avoid the comparison game. Just as we are not all gifted athletically like LeBron, God has a different path for each of us. Be patient, listen to His coaching, and hang in there!
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land. Psalm 37:7-9 (NLT)