Passion For Winning Defines His Success
My job has afforded me the luxury of watching LeBron James play over a dozen times. In the last year, I've almost dreaded going to a St. Vincent-St. Mary's game. I know, that sounds kinda stupid, but for someone who covers high school basketball for a living, the games can be more hassle than enjoyment.
See, with James comes record crowds, a throng of media and generally, a circus-like atmosphere that can be a major interruption to your day if you aren't big into crowds and just want to go about your business. If you see him once, that's all you really need to see anyway, so what's the big deal?
Well, the big deal is that I've taken my James viewings for granted. My media pass to see LeBron James runs out at the end of the season. My days of free viewings are numbered and soon I'll have to buck up like everyone else to catch him in action.
You know what? He's earned my income.
Yes, LeBron James is the best high school basketball player I've ever seen. Yes, he'll be the first pick in the NBA Draft. Yes, he deserves to drive around in a Hummer (when you put fannies in the seats the way he does, why not?).
Having said all that, here's a young man with a unique measure or at least perspective on the game. Let me explain.
He's the most unselfish, unassuming superstar basketball player – on the court – you can find on the high school level. Let's put another 18-year old into his position and see how he would fare. Would said player be as consumed with winning the way James is?
Here's LeBron James sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter of a blowout with 16,000 eyes looking on him and I'm standing behind the bench hearing him say, "People have no idea how good a TEAM we are. They just don't know." By the way, I couldn't see James because I was standing behind a very large man who is James' designated body guard, but that's another story all together.
In the post game media conference, James repeatedly went out of his way to talk about his team and their effort. Folks, a huge part of James' greatness centers around winning. From the first time I saw him at the USA Basketball Youth Development Camp to Monday afternoon, winning has defined him.
The media sometimes defines him by his automobile or the future size of his bank account, but that's not James speaking. It is my opinion that his passion for success, not his ability to break down a defender, is what will allow him to become the superstar that everyone projects him to be.
Points, rebounds and assists don't define this guy. Let's be honest, he's a 50-point game waiting to happen every time he steps onto the floor. The reason why I think he's great is because he takes those 50 points and turns them into 32 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks, all of which came within the team concept of a 29-point rout.
"It's within his rights to jack up 35 shots," one Division I assistant said on Monday. Yeah, well within his rights but clearly not his style. You've got to respect his passion for achieving success through his team. He loves playing ball with Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce. He loves being the greatest high school basketball player of his time, but he seems to love winning more than anything.
The bar has been raised so high for James that there will be those who call him a failure if he's not an impact player right away in the NBA. Well, the only way I'll ever be disappointed in LeBron James is if he loses his focus on the court and forgets the passion, perspective and style with which he played the game while wearing the Irish jersey in high school.
LeBron, here's my $50 buckets for a ticket. You earned it.