LeBron James, and Olympics-Style Fun

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As a big NBA fan, I was fascinated by this year’s free agency dealings. I made sure we got home by 9:00 last Thursday, after worship team practice, so I could watch The Decision, when LeBron James announced where he was going.

First, it was way too much hype. I wish he’d done it a different way. But that’s just a process issue. The result is that the best players on three different teams will now play together on the Miami Heat.

LeBron is taking a lot of criticism. One criticism is that a Real Superstar would have stayed in Cleveland and won a championship on his own. He would have wanted to compete head-to-head with D-Wade and Chris Bosh, rather than team up with them.

But my mind goes back to the 2008 Olympics. As I watched James then, I remember thinking that he seemed to truly be having fun. He didn’t need to carry the team. He just had to do his part. In the pre- and post-game interviews, he seemed energized being part of a collective purpose.

I sort of see that now. He’ll be part of a team, not THE team, the perpetual go-to guy, the one who gets the blame if the team falls short. He’s been playing that role all his life, including, from what I’ve heard, carrying his family on his shoulders while growing up.

I suspect that the Olympics opened his eyes to something he enjoyed far more than being Top Dog. He was part of a team. He belonged. He was appreciated for what he brought to the mix. He could sit on the bench and wildly cheer his teammates. Nobody depended on him alone. It was a whole different type of exhilaration.

Yes, he could have proven a macho point by winning a championship in Cleveland. But was he having fun? I don’t think so.

Some personalities are suited to being the supreme leader. Michael Jordan was certainly that way. So is Kobe.

I’m not sure that comes naturally to James. By joining an all-star roster, he may give up the chance to be the Greatest of All Time. But does that motivate him? I suspect not. I think he’d rather have fun. And in Miami, with Wade and Bosh, James will have fun. And so will I, watching them play.

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