Tag Archives: NBA

Flashback: Two Thoughts About LeBron James

Enjoy this flashback to an article I published in 2014…

Basketball

Two Thoughts About LeBron James

My first thought about LeBron James is I wish he would have stayed in Cleveland and won a championship for that city. Imagine the scene in Cleveland:

– LeBron James, the local hero, brings home a title to a town starving for a championship.

– Cleveland celebrates its championship with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a backdrop.

– A statue outside Quicken Loans Arena serves as a permanent reminder of his greatness.

But wait, none of this happened! Instead, LeBron James took his talents to South Beach and the rest is history. Sure, he left the team that drafted him in search of titles elsewhere, but other athletes have done this, too. He teamed up with other superstars for a coordinated run at a title. It was not the first time this happened, either.

Did he disparage Cleveland and all things about the Cavaliers on his way out the door? No, he chose not to do so. Surely he must have broken a rule that prevents players from ever leaving one “workplace” to go to another? No such rule exists.

So what is the “crime” committed by LeBron James?

Maybe he should have told the Cavaliers of his intention to leave the team first. Maybe he should not have gone on television to make “The Decision.” I get it, but did these two missteps warrant the venom spewed at LeBron James from both fans and foes alike? After “The Decision,” he was instantly regarded as one of the most hated athletes in professional sports. I have to wonder why he still receives this punishment.

We want our athletes to be well-behaved on the court. This describes LeBron James.

We want our athletes to stay out of trouble and be model citizens. This describes LeBron James.

We want our athletes to play hard, play smart, and play fair. This describes LeBron James.

Is the punishment worth the “crime?”

Our criticism of athletes, though sometimes valid, can extend well beyond what we really know about the world they live in. We seem to think that we know how it feels to be a world-class athlete. We also think we know what it’s like to perform while millions of people are watching. We believe that we know how professional athletes should act just because they are well-compensated. Then we use this information, lay it at the feet of our athletes, and take inventory. Is it really a “crime” if they don’t measure up to our lofty standards as fans?

My second thought about LeBron James is I think he has been punished more than enough for the “crime” he committed. I want him to be judged by his performance on the court, instead of a decision made off the court. I guess time will tell if he will ever be embraced like he was years ago. Who knows? Just ask the multitude of Cleveland Cavaliers fans still dreaming of a championship and a LeBron James statue for their opinion.

 

UPDATE: King James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2016, he led the charge and brought the city of Cleveland and fans of the Cavaliers the NBA championship.

 

Let’s Ball and Brand… with Humility

Ball

The 2017 NBA Draft is upon us and there is little doubt most, if not all, eyes will be on Lonzo Ball from UCLA. Ball will be in the mix as the top player in the draft and possibly the number one pick overall. Good for him. He is a special talent who should be able to make any team better thanks to his wide variety of skills. In fact, I believe he has a chance to be a great one. One thing I like about Lonzo Ball is he seems to be humble. He seems to have a splash of humility that allows him to stay grounded. I could be wrong, but this is the impression I get when watching him play and hearing him speak. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about his father, LaVar Ball.

LaVar Ball, to his credit, has raised both Lonzo and his younger brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo, to be basketball prodigies and future pros. Forget what you may think about those parents who push their kids in sports, Mr. Ball has set his kids up for a bright future. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids? However, what LaVar Ball is also doing is putting extra pressure on his sons that does not have to be there. He could sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor, and then ride their talents all the way to the bank. Instead, he chooses to be the center of attention with his over-the-top, used car salesman antics. One must ask why?

I believe LaVar Ball is a smart man. He is trying to hype his sons in order to sell his (their) Big Baller Brand to the masses. It is a great strategy. In fact, the set up the Ball family has is a marketers dream. They have three good-looking, talented basketball playing sons with unlimited potential. They have created a brand. They have a platform to promote and sell their brand. They have name-recognition. They have a chance to increase their following by performing on and off the basketball court. With so much going for them, is there any way things can go wrong?

The answer is yes. If the Ball family, LaVar Ball in-particular, chooses to ball and brand with arrogance, then their brand could suffer. The built-in advantages they have could slowly fade over time. The fans that surely support them now, could turn and support other players. The sales they could make over the long haul could dry up quickly. To prevent this from happening, I suggest the Ball family, LaVar Ball in-particular, chooses to ball and brand with humility.

How can the Ball family ball and brand with humility? We can start by notating what it means to operate with humility. Humility means to show modesty and humbleness. In the face of having tremendous talent, I am sure this can be a difficult thing to do. Understandably, a talented player like Lonzo Ball may struggle with this issue, especially when people constantly remind him of his greatness. However, as long as he plays it somewhat “low-key”, I think he will be able to manage it. He could ball and brand with humility. I think he already does.

On the other hand, thanks to his father it appears he and his entire family is loud, brash, and in-your-face. Make no mistake about it: the Ball sons, and their brand, are coming. LaVar Ball wants us to know this, and he goes to great lengths to promote his sons and his billion-dollar dream. That’s great! However, many people resent the success of others, regardless of how it is attained. This resentment can grow if one chooses to flaunt their success and good fortune. So, the Ball family has a choice to make: ball and brand with arrogance or ball and brand with humility. Based on LaVar Ball’s track record in the spotlight so far, one has to wonder what choice they will make.

Mr. Ball claims to be on “the same” level as a player to some of the all-time greats. How he could put his name in the same sentence as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley is beyond my understanding. How he could compare his son Lonzo to Magic Johnson is beyond my understanding. How he could blame the loss UCLA suffered on slow, white players who played alongside Lonzo is beyond my understanding. How he could say his sons are set up better than LeBron James’s sons is beyond my understanding. I guess Mr. Ball, and the reasons why he makes the proclamations he does, is beyond my understanding too. Thus far, he is choosing to ball and brand with arrogance, rather than choosing to ball and brand with humility.

Maybe this what he wants: to be known as a loud-mouthed pitchman seeking the fifteen minutes of fame his basketball career never provided. Bravo LaVar Ball, bravo! You have turned yourself into the center of attention, as well as put a white-hot spotlight on your son before he even sets foot on an NBA practice court. Imagine what it will be like when Lonzo Ball meets Stephen Curry on the hardwood for the first time. By the way, LaVar Ball said his son Lonzo is better than Curry right now. I am sure than the two competitors will treat it as good competition, but the circus will follow Lonzo Ball for that game. Unfortunately it will follow LaVar Ball. I guess I am in the circus now too (but at least I chose not to give Mr. Ball any additional free publicity here by linking to stories about his antics).  

For the record, I hope Lonzo Ball has a tremendous, hall-of-fame worthy career. I hope LaMelo Ball has a tremendous, hall-of-fame worthy career. I hope LiAngelo gets there too. I hope their Big Baller Brand becomes a household name. I hope they build and accumulate wealth beyond their wildest dreams too. However, here’s what I don’t want. I don’t want to hear about those things from LaVar Ball as they unfold. I don’t want to see this pitchman every time one of his sons is on the court. I don’t want to listen to anymore interviews of this man either. But, something tells me this will not be the case.

Hopefully Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo Ball choose to ball and brand with humility. Then maybe LaVar Ball will choose to do the same.