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I’ve been a LeBron James fan for years.
The fact is we’ve never seen a player quite like him. There’s no denying his unstoppable all-around game, his ability to elevate players around him. (James’s teams have appeared in the NBA finals for the past eight years in a row.) For basketball fans the world over, he’s been a joy to watch.
But I am absolutely not a fan of James’s recent claim, namely, that he’s the “Greatest Of All Time” (what fans of the game refer to as the “GOAT.”)
James made the comment while speaking to friends on a recent episode of ESPN’s new show, “More Than an Athlete.” Specifically, James states that his team’s victory over the Golden State Warriors in 2016, who many considered one of the greatest basketball teams of all time, is what pushed him over the top.
Here’s the quote:
“That one right there made me the greatest player of all time. That’s what I felt. I was just super, super ecstatic to win one for Cleveland because of the 52-year [championship] drought…The first wave of emotion, where everyone saw me crying, like, that was all for 52 years of everything in sports going on in Cleveland.
“And then, after I stopped I was like, shhh…That one right there made you the greatest player of all time. Everybody was just talking, how they were the greatest team of all time, like, they was the greatest team ever assembled. And for us to come back, you know, the way we came back in that fashion, I was like…you did something special.”
Of course, it was a single sentence that really stood out:
“That one right there made me the greatest player of all time.”
Within hours, there was an uproar among NBA fans, pundits, and former players.
“I just think that’s disrespectful,” said NBA hall-of-fame player and former coach Kevin McHale. “You don’t need to say that about yourself. Let other people say that for you.”
“I love the kid, I think he’s a great player, I think he’s been great for the game,” McHale continued. “But let other people say that for you. To me, it’s just disrespectful for a lot of people who came before you that were great, great, great players.”
Fellow hall-of-famer Scottie Pippen and teammate of Michael Jordan, who many have argued is the true NBA GOAT, soon chimed in via ESPN’s The Jump:
“If you are the greatest player, if people are saying you are the greatest player, or if people are saying Michael Jordan is the greatest player, why do you need to say it?” Pippen asked. “Michael Jordan has never, ever said he’s the greatest player to ever play the game. Why? He’s respected all the other players before him.”
Besides lacking humility, LeBron’s statement was a very bad idea for another reason:
It lacked emotional intelligence.Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions effectively. In simpler terms, it’s how you make emotions work for you, instead of against you.
Besides rousing the ire of NBA fans across the world, LeBron also does himself a disservice by considering himself the greatest of all time. In doing so, LeBron indicates that he’s chosen to bask in his previous achievements, rather than pursue a continued mindset of growth. It’s as if he’s saying he’s already quenched his thirst for success, and that there’s nothing left to accomplish.
We can see evidence of this in the past two seasons.
Yes, LeBron led the Cavs to face the Golden State Warriors both years. And yes, it took fierce determination and hard work to get there.
But once there, LeBron didn’t seem to possess the same drive that he had displayed before. Sometimes, his body language indicated he’d rather be somewhere else. And when his teammates made mistakes (yes, sometimes big ones), he couldn’t seem to shake them off and be a positive influence, as he was so often in the past.
In fact, in the NBA finals the past two years, the Lebron-led Cavaliers have only won game.
Out of nine tries.
Of course, without LeBron’s leadership the Cavaliers wouldn’t have even been in the NBA finals. But now that we’ve been given a window into LeBron’s thoughts, I can’t help but think that those teams would have performed much better if he didn’talready think of himself as the greatest player of all time.
Instead, what if James continued to have that unquenchable thirst, that laser-sharp focus on getting the absolute most out of the people surrounding him?
Also, it’s vital to remember that basketball is a team game. Although the Cavaliers’ championship over the Warriors was quite the accomplishment, LeBron’s use of that title to single himself out as the GOAT does a great disservice to his teammates, including fellow NBA all-star Kyrie Irving–who performed brilliantly in that series…and interestingly, eventually asked to be traded out of Cleveland.
If there’s one thing I love most about LeBron it’s his ability to learn from his mistakes. And I’m hoping he’ll do the same this time.
Because what LeBron must remember…what we all must remember, is this:
No man is an island. The true measure of greatness is your ability to get the most out of those around you.
So, quit focusing on only the good things others say about you.
Quit comparing yourself with others.
Most of all, quit worrying about being considered “the greatest of all time.”
Instead, continue striving to be the greatest version of yourself.