Soap Box: Taking the High Road

Sometimes, superstar athletes have a propensity to be egotistical, arrogant and crude. And when you are as talented as LeBron James is, when you have garnered the global recognition he has, when you have dominated your sport as he continues to do, it would be hard not to have that attitude. When you sign a $90 million shoe contract with Nike before you even play a game in the NBA, you’re big time and doing something right.
Somehow, LeBron has avoided that mindset. He is undoubtedly one of the top two players on the planet. He has won an Olympic gold medal, an Eastern Conference championship, and an NBA MVP award. James has done things that millions of people can only dream of doing. Yet through it all, he has maintained a humble, “team first, me second” mentality that is beyond impressive.
He has said that Michael Jordan’s jersey number 23, the same number James wears, should be retired league-wide. He has even filed the paperwork to have his number changed to 6, in order to start that process. He is articulate, well mannered and a fan favorite. He is not standoffish, but rather welcoming. He has taken the Cavaliers from a perennial bottom-dweller and turned them into serious contenders.
This week, James went out on a limb, and said that he could win the NBA scoring title every year if he wanted.
“If I really wanted to,” James said, “if I really wanted to be the scoring [champion] every single year, I could really do it. But it doesn’t matter.” He continued by saying that home-court advantage throughout the playoffs is more important to him than anything. “That’s what position we’re in right now. If we can do that, that will be more important than a scoring title. I mean, individual accolades take care of [themselves].”
The thing about it is, James could win a scoring title at will. He wasn’t stating anything that everyone doesn’t already know. He displays that when he chooses to take over a game late in the fourth quarter and scores 15 straight points at will. When he decides to score, nobody in the league can stop him. But what impresses me more is that he doesn’t care. He knows he possess that talent and instead does what is best for the team, passes the ball, rebounds, plays defense. It took surefire Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant nearly his whole career to figure that point out. But LeBron is only in his mid-twenties.
Now that quote may strike some sports fans as overconfident and brash. But it isn’t. What he said was that he could take that title if he wanted it. But he pointed out that he doesn’t concern himself with personal success or individual awards or titles. It really is a team-first attitude with him. That was not out of line by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I commend James even more for what he said. He didn’t deny he was good, because when that happens, it often comes of as feigning humility. But he seemed genuine and sincere. He admitted that he was talented but also realizes that there are more important things than a scoring title. He showed a genuine care about being a winner and obtaining his first NBA championship.
Since James has come into the league, he has been an icon, in the United States and internationally. He has done everything right and he has improved his game. He did not sit back on his number 1 overall pick in the draft and assume he was good enough. He worked hard and become even better. He has concerned himself with winning and team. He has been a model of maturity and how to carry yourself as a professional athlete and role model. The rest of the NBA and professional sport’s world should take notes.