Dr. Boyce: Things that make LeBron James one of the great ones
By Dr. Boyce Watkins
For the most part, the NBA bores me, but that hasn’t always been the case. I was a typical Black kid who grew up on the basketball court, learning the ins and outs of the game. So, even though I only watch the last five minutes of the last game of every championship series, I am still able to keep up with what’s going on.
Also, I’ve become more intrigued with the behind-the-scenes workings of the NBA, where Black athletes all too often have their freedom and their fortunes stripped by guys in fancy suits who went to Harvard. I witnessed this foolishness up close when I supported former NBA Union head Billy Hunter when he was pushed out of the league. What I learned is that when you give hundreds of millions of dollars to guys who are only focused on dribbling a basketball, there are going to be others jockeying for position to control them as if they are farm animals. Some NBA players understand what’s going on, but quite a few of these brothers don’t know and don’t care until it’s too late.
I first saw LeBron James play about 9 or 10 years ago. He was taking on Oak Hill Academy, a basketball farm that disguises itself as an educational institution. LeBron was bigger, taller and more skilled than his teammates and seemed to single-handedly elevate his team to defeat a school that actively recruits the best players in the country. Shortly after the win against Oak Hill, I watched LeBron control the McDonald’s All-Star game like a father playing basketball with his five-year old kids: He didn’t try to score very many points, but seemed to decide who should get to score next. I was astonished, since he clearly managed the entire game on both ends of the floor.
My initial impression of LeBron was that he was going to be something very special in the NBA. He wasn’t a regular All American,, but the kind of athlete who could do something truly special. Ironically, it wasn’t just his talent that got my attention. I was equally impressed with his poise during interviews, his willingness to be a good teammate, and the way he made himself better by helping others to get better too. He was no Michael Jordan, because Jordan was incredibly selfish early in his career. Instead, LeBron came off to me as an only child of a single parent who yearned for the camaraderie that comes from being part of a unit that is greater than himself.
As I’ve watched LeBron go through the ups and downs to win his first two championships, I have to give him credit for his personal and professional growth. Most of us have no idea what it’s like to already be one of the best athletes on the planet, but to still have almost no margin of error when it comes to refining nearly every single aspect of your game. For LeBron, a couple of missed jump shots or free throws alters his entire legacy. It doesn’t matter if he is 98 percent as good as he could have been, since that last 2 percent can kill you.