In this 2015 NBA Finals, and in every other NBA Finals in which he has played, LeBron James has “played a great job.” We can all agree on that. The whole world can agree that LeBron’s is a talent that only comes around once in a generation. His is an exceptional talent; he is who every athlete wants to be. However, LeBron is currently failing at winning NBA championships (which is fine with me) and as he gets older (I guess with that not-remarkable Cavs team, until he decides to leave them again; a cheater is always a cheater, Cleveland) he will most likely continue to fail at winning NBA championships.
LeBron led the Cavaliers to the Finals in 2009 and again in 2015. He continues to play beautiful basketball; he continues to have triple–doubles all over the playoffs. He claims, probably legitimately, that he is “the best player in the world.” His arrogance, whether it is just playing into a culture of athletics that encourages bluster and braggadocio, is annoying; but as annoying as it is, LeBron speaks truth. He IS the best basketball player in the world. And in stark contrast to that stands LeBron’s new record of 2-4 in the NBA Finals.
Although I don’t think he means to do it and although I’m pretty sure that LeBron would trade his losses for wins, I think the quandary of LeBron teaches — or should teach — us something about the way the world works. LeBron is the best basketball player in the world. Even though he is the best player in the world, though, it’s not enough; it is still not enough to get LeBron what he wants, which (ostensibly) is to win championships. It’s not enough because in this world, even if you are actually the best at something, there are outside factors that you have no control over. These outside factors, which cannot be controlled and indeed at times control us (despite what we like to think), are bigger than we are, better than our best efforts to succeed, and more powerful than our ability to get what we want.
And I think this means something outside of sports. It means in careers and it means in relationships. Sometimes, regardless of how hard you try or how good you are, you can’t get where you want by trying. We don’t live in a meritocracy, not even LeBron does. But I think there is something encouraging in all of this, too: If not even the best and brightest can always make it to the top, I guess that levels the playing field for the rest of us.
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