As presented in the previous article, LeBron James have outdone many of his modern-day fellow legends such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant in the category of endurance and longevity. Here, we take an in-depth look at some elements of LeBron’s personality which have helped him achieve such longevity throughout his career.
LeBron is proactive
LeBron is not the one to sit back and wait for good things to happen, or save all the unpleasant errands for ‘future James’. LeBron takes matter into his own hands in a proactive manner and that is perhaps the biggest secret to his sustained success at the top. Many high-profile athletes suffer from poor fitness and weight gain during the latter parts of their career. This also increases the risk of injury for them, especially for athletes with bigger frames. Shaquille O’Neal is a classic example of an NBA athlete who struggled with weights that clearly limited his in-game abilities as the weight gain was not so surprisingly followed by repeated injuries. LeBron acknowledged this even before something bad had happened to him. He realized that as his body was getting older so would increase the risks of injuries, and his supernatural body weight, which he has used to his advantage on the court over the years is eventually going to become a burden. And once injured, it would become even more difficult to get back to his original body shape. So, he decided to be proactive, and took the preventive initiative of losing over 20 pounds before his 11th NBA season (Manfred, 2014). The results were imminent, LeBron’s body is still to show any sign of fatigue despite 14 years of full NBA seasons and 8 Finals. .
LeBron knows what’s more important in life and how to take it easy
The one thing that is repeated by LeBron frequently in his interviews is his family. LeBron is very happy in his family life and he does not allow his on-court struggles or failures to interfere with his happiness in his personal life. After a hard-fought season LeBron always makes the most of his summer with his family. Even after suffering a dreadful loss against the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 Finals, LeBron looked happy as ever in his summer vacation pictures with his family (Ellentuck, 2017). In turn, this strong bonding with his family has protected him from all the negativity that has surrounded him since his early days and gave him the strength to come back strong and rejuvenated year after year.
LeBron is a good teammate
LeBron has always been the most dominant player and the undisputed leader of any team he has ever been a part of, and while he has been accused of many things in his career (e.g. attracting excessive media attention, being overly controlling, complaining too much about the roster, and so on), he has never been accused of being a bad teammate (Joseph, 2017). Even his biggest non-believers admit that LeBron is a great teammate. Many superstars don’t have this quality and they often struggle to coexist with other superstars. For example, Kobe Bryant has had quite the reputation for running teammates out of town (Dwight Howard, Shaquille O’Neal). But despite playing side by side many big stars, LeBron has never had an issue or clash of ego with another teammate regardless of their magnitudes of stardom. This has minimized the unnecessary stressors and distractions for LeBron and allowed him to focus on his game. Kyrie Irving was the first teammate who allegedly refused to play with LeBron when he demanded a trade in 2017, but only to realize his mistakes a year later when he apologized to LeBron and asked for advice (NBA.com, 2019).
LeBron prioritizes his goals well
Although LeBron has been known as the best player in the world for the better part of the first 14 seasons of his career, he ‘only’ won 3 championships, one scoring title, four MVP awards, and were outperformed by many in the stats sheet. But LeBron never cared if he finished second in the MVP voting, or didn’t win the scoring title more than once. LeBron appeared more interested in such individual achievements in the early days in his career, but as time progressed, he shifted and shuffled several of his goals and became more interested in winning championships. LeBron could’ve easily surrounded himself with lesser scorers or rebounders if recording unearthly stats was his main priority. But he chose to be content to look less impressive on the stats sheet as he pushed hard for more championships.
LeBron is humble and never forgets where he came from
While there are so many people out there who seem obsessed to point out LeBron’s many flaws, or, make countless arguments in attempt to prove his arrogance, poor clutch ability, or his entitled behaviour, they tend to overlook that LeBron is actually a very modest person, and a very humble teammate. Despite all his success and wealth LeBron never forgot his roots or the need to work hard. In response to the never-ending debate about LeBron being the best player in the league, LeBron said in an interview in 2016 that he is least concerned about who is the face of the league; he is blessed to even play in the league (Vardon, 2016; News Online 24h, 2016). And this is what LeBron James said after his second NBA Championship with Miami in 2013, “I can’t worry about what everybody says about me. I am LeBron James from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I am not even supposed to be here. Every day I walk into the locker room and I see my jersey with my name on the back, I am blessed” (Gaines, 2013).
LeBron manages his personal life well
As mentioned several times in this article, LeBron loves to talk about his family, and over the years LeBron has done remarkably well to maintain his reputation as a role mode, an ideal husband and a great father. Despite his many controversial or unpopular remarks over the years you will not find many scandalous stories involving his family or personal life. This is indeed an exceptional accomplishment on part of LeBron given how so few NBA stars have been able to manage their personal lives without finding themselves in career threatening situations. Some common personal struggles many NBA superstars suffer from range from hypersexual and unsafe sexual behaviour, dysfunctional marriages/ dyadic relationships, domestic abuse, to possession of drugs, gambling addiction, physical altercation, and sexual assault. Following are some examples of players who were found struggling with such issues during their careers.
Jason Kidd, an NBA champion, and a first ballot Hall of Famer, was arrested for and charged with domestic abuse for assaulting his wife.
Latrell Sprewell was suspended for 68 games for assaulting a teammate.
Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing was associated with an illegal prostitution trial in Atlanta, Georgia,
Rasheed Wallace, an NBA Champion and prolific Power Forward, was arrested for marijuana possession.
Michael Beasley, a high-prospect talented big man, 2nd overall pick of the 2008 NBA draft, was fined on numerous occasions for his involvement in marijuana possession cases and has also been charged for sexual assault.
Allan Iverson, an Icon of the post-Jordan era, a Hall of Famer, has battled with more than his share of personal struggles and controversies throughout his career, and those off-court distractions surely contributed to the decline and the eventual end of his career. Over the years, Iverson has been arrested for illegal possession of marijuana and weapons; became banned from a resort after being caught urinating outside the venue, struggled with gambling addiction, and was involved in an enduring legal battle with his wife over various issues including custody of their children.
Isiah Thomas, another hall of famer, was involved in a long-running legal dispute over a paternity lawsuit, in which he had to pay over $150,000 for child support and other damages.
Charles Barkley, hall of famer, and multiple rebounding title winner, has been accused of many misconducts including addictive gambling, spitting on a fan, and was arrested for assault.
Even the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan, does not have a clean record. Jordan has received much criticism for his gambling addiction throughout his career.
Kobe Bryant, another first ballot hall of famer, and a more contemporary rival of LeBron for the title of the best player in the world, also lived a life filled with many controversies. Kobe’s worst controversial moment was when he was arrested for and charged with sexual assault. The criminal charges were later dropped, and the case was settled outside the court, and while there remains dispute over his innocence, the most loyal of Kobe devotees would admit that this controversy had caused a lot of distraction for Kobe and his career took a transient hit because of it.
Gilbert Arenas, another high prospect talent, the winner of the 2003 Most Improved Player Award, was charged for possession of unlicensed weapons outside home for bringing a gun to the team locker room facing several consequences that included heavy fines and suspension, as well as being dropped by his sponsor Adidas, and the eventual demise of what could have been a great career.
Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, and Wilt Chamberlain both admitted having engaged in hypersexual behaviour – Chamberlain claimed to have had sex with 20,000 women in his life while Johnson reportedly admitted to have had sex with between 300 and 500 people every year before testing positive for HIV.
In comparison, LeBron’s record of involvement in scandalous stories is next to none. The worst scandal involving LeBron James’ personal life was when a private message circulated on the internet that was rumoured to be from LeBron’s verified account directed towards an internet model. Therefore, when compared to all these superstars LeBron deserves much credit for managing his life so well.
However, LeBron is not the greatest role model only for being a good father with no confirmed record of adultery, because we don’t know for sure if LeBron really is as faithful a husband as his public image indicates. I personally find it very hard to believe that anyone with that much wealth, fame and power would be content with just one sexual partner in his prime. So, let’s assume that he did (and does) commit adultery. But did you ever wonder why we know so little about LeBron’s private life? That’s because he manages his personal life well, and he has done it better than Kobe, Michael, or Magic.
If LeBron does, in fact, engage in extramarital sexual activities, the reason we don’t know so surely of them, is because he is probably doing it in a safe and responsible manner, with a safe number of partners. Unlike Kobe who didn’t know better to hook up with a random stranger or Magic or Wilt who didn’t realize that more isn’t always merrier and you’re not supposed to keep going until something really bad forces you to stop, LeBron has been better at handling his personal life like a responsible adult free of drama, and that’s what makes him a better role model for young athletes than Kobe, Michael, and Magic and a defining factor for his enduring success.
Ellentuck, M. (2017). Summer LeBron James is incredibly logged-on and loves everybody. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from SB Nation: https://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2017/8/27/16211496/lebron-james-twitter-instagram-kyrie-irving-trade
Falzone, D. (n.d.). Anger over Caitlyn Jenner being chosen over Lauren Hill for ESPY courage award. Retrieved 1 20, 2019, from Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2015/06/03/anger-over-caitlyn-jenner-being-chosen-over-lauren-hill-for-espy-courage-award/
Gaines, C. (2013). LeBron James Gives Epic Speech After Winning NBA Finals MVP. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/video-lebron-james-gives-epic-speech-after-winning-nba-finals-mvp-2013-6
Joseph, A. (2017). A perfect explanation of what playing with LeBron James is like, from his favorite teammate. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from USA Today: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/04/lebron-james-favorite-teammate-james-jones-cavaliers-role-players-specialists
Manfred, T. (2014). Here’s Why LeBron James Is Losing So Much Weight. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/skinny-lebron-james-2014-8
NBA.com. (2019). Irving says he called LeBron to apologize, discuss roles as leaders. Retrieved from NBA.com: http://www.nba.com/article/2019/01/16/kyrie-irving-called-lebron-james-apologize.
Image : Erik Drost –https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrost88/30602630895/
About the Author
Adlul Kamal is a professional practitioner & researcher in sport and exercise psychology. He has a double master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology from Lund University (Sweden) and Leipzig University (Germany). Adlul has been working in the industry since 2012 and he is a professional member of the Canadian Sport Psychology Association (CSPA). He has worked with athletes in many different sports including Fencing, Soccer, Basketball, Triathlon, Badminton, and Special Olympics Athletes.
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