What Other Pro Athletes Pursuing 1st Ring Can Learn from LeBron James
Now, there is no other athlete in the history of sports who has gone through this much scrutiny in pursuit of their first ring, and it's insane to think that it's all going to end if and when the Heat do finish off the Thunder. Scrutiny will continue as LeBron is continually compared to Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and the other greats in NBA history.
Even though LeBron isn't going to win over the entire base of fans with his first ring, it's going to be a start.
One thing's for sure after watching LeBron for the past decade, he's followed a path to stardom that has been both unorthodox and at times troubling; but here he is, one win away from getting that elusive ring.
With the steps that LeBron has taken since he came into the league, he's given other athletes chasing their first championship something to learn from, both in terms of his massive missteps and his colossal victories.
The Past Is the Past
There's one thing that LeBron did that was commendable when he left Cleveland. For the most part, when he left, he was gone.
Sure, he went back to Akron every once in a while to do a charity bike ride and his first game back in Cleveland was something of a spectacle, but once he was gone, he was a part of the Miami Heat and rarely looked back.
There were instances when he was goaded into responses, admitting that he had done wrong in leaving Cleveland the way he did and saying he would possibly like to go back to Cleveland one day, but those were questions that had to be answered to bury his past.
LeBron has grabbed media attention in the years since his decision, but rarely has he looked back at leaving Cleveland or harped on the reasons why he left. Even beyond that, he got past his struggles in last year's finals as quickly as anybody could have asked.
The Future Is Now
There's no reason for LeBron James to think that he's not the best player in the NBA right now. He's going up against the guy who is his closest competitor and for all intents and purposes, he's winning.
LeBron has done a great job this year (this postseason most of all) at realizing that what he does now will affect how he is perceived tomorrow and on down the road.
His career performance in Game 6 against Boston was enough to prove it. There was a realization in his eyes that should he fail in that series, then the season was a waste. He's got the same thing going in the Finals.
This LeBron is totally different from the LeBron we watched in 2011. He knows every move he makes will be talked about, and instead of shying away from it he's started to embrace it.
Sometimes It's Best to Shut Your Mouth
Of the many missteps LeBron has made over the past few years, the biggest ones have often been with his mouth, rather than his game.
The best example over the past few years came after Game 6 when he called out all of his "haters" saying (via ESPN):
“All the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today.”
The headline "LeBron James Clarifies His Comments on..." was the most overused headline in the past two years, and mostly because he kept putting his foot in his mouth.
For all you players looking to win your first ring, keep your mouth in check, think before you speak and you'll make things a whole lot easier on yourself.
It's a bit surprising that very few people have talked about it or pointed it out, but LeBron James hasn't tweeted since April 27th; the first game of the playoffs for the Miami Heat was April 28th.
It may seem like a small thing, but for the past two months it's been all basketball for LeBron James. Before I ignite a firestorm, it seems prudent to point out that Kevin Durant has taken a twitter drought for nearly as long, tweet-free since May 1st.
Aside from that, the go-to pre-game shot of LeBron has been him reading a book, which he has done a lot more of instead of watching television. Another wise move by the big-headbanded fellow.
It's All about the Team
Professional athletes aren't stupid, they aren't going to go out and claim that they're the entire reason their team is winning, that would be career suicide. However, when you watch a player on the court with his team you can tell if they are really in tune with their teammates or not.
It may just be a result of playing for an extra season with the majority of his new teammates, but comparing this season to last season you see a LeBron James who is much more in tune with the guys wearing the same color jersey that he is.
One player doesn't make a team, but the efforts of one player can make a team play as a team.
Be Your Own Man
One of the more interesting developments from last year to this year has been the fact that LeBron has done the opposite of what people have been wanting him to do. Rather than embrace the role of the villain, LeBron has gone on with his life and continued to be LeBron.
There was a lot of talk last season about LeBron becoming the most hated player in the NBA, which he tried to embrace from time-to-time with varied results.
This season, however, LeBron hasn't tried to be a villain or a hero publicly. Instead he just goes out there, plays basketball and moves onto the next game. It's been working more often than not.
Nothing Matters but the Ring
If there was one thing that LeBron James and the Miami Heat didn't realize enough last year, it's that the only thing that ultimately matters at the end of a season is who goes home with that golden trophy and gets a pretty little ring on opening day the next year.
Last year, after the Heat took down the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the celebration that ensued saw LeBron going down to one knee and the team looking like they'd just won the title. Meanwhile, after the Dallas Mavericks beat the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, Dirk Nowitzki never even touched the WCF trophy. We all know how the Finals shook out that year.
Fast forward a year and the shoe is on the other foot. As the Heat took down the Celtics after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, they were very pedestrian about it and kept celebrations to a minimum while the Thunder whooped it up on the west coast as they took down the Spurs. Now we're seeing how this Finals is shaking out.
In the end, it seems like LeBron, and all of Miami for that matter, have a different view on what's important compared to last season, and it's getting results.
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