I’ve never met LeBron James, and I probably never will. So I guess it’s presumptuous to tell you how he’s feeling after winning his second straight NBA title and MVP award.
But I will tell you anyway, because there’s a lesson here.
Reading between the lines of various comments LeBron has made, you can see he has a chip on his shoulder. He’s had many detractors since entering the NBA, especially after failing to win championships with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And then he was criticized for his decision to movie to South Beach in pursuit of a championship with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat.
Even after winning the Heat won the championship last season, the critics didn’t go away. Nor did LeBron lose the chip on his shoulder.
One championship wasn’t enough. LeBron still had to prove something.
It has never been enough to display his spectacular physical attributes or be considered the best basketball player on the planet. LeBron had to win championships—lots of championships. Especially since everyone keeps comparing him to Michael Jordan.
How would you like to be competing with the ghost of Michael Jordan? That would be a tough assignment for anyone, especially if their entire identity was wrapped around the game of basketball.
So LeBron has worked hard. Yes, he has had an “attitude,” but he has used it well—to motivate him to keep improving his game. Several times in this year’s championship run, he almost singlehandedly snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat. Kudos, LeBron.
So he has every right to be extremely happy…proud…ecstatic about what he has achieved.
But here’s the sad part: Despite his amazing accomplishments, the great King James isn’t feeling so great. At least not right now.
This is actually quite predictable. Yet I’m sure LeBron is feeling baffled by his melancholic reaction to his amazing success—especially when surrounded by people who assure him he should be quite pleased with himself.
Instead of euphoria, here’s what LeBron is feeling at the moment: After two NBA titles, two MVP awards, and even an Olympic gold medal, it’s still not enough. After all of his superhuman efforts, there are still detractors out there. Michael Jordan still has more championships, and it looks ever-harder to surpass his record.
Within days, if not hours, of his new championship, LeBron looks ahead to having to get on the treadmill of achievement once again. How can he keep doing this, again and again and again? Will it ever be enough? Will he ever feel truly satisfied…truly good about himself?
And what will happen when LeBron’s basketball days one day come to a close? Will his self-image as a person be able to make the harsh transition from Superman to Clark Kent?
Although I haven’t always cheered for LeBron on the basketball court, I am pulling for him as a person. Yet in some ways I find myself feeling sorry for him. It’s an awful thing to be on an endless treadmill of trying to feel good about yourself…and the treadmill of proving something to your critics.
I’m praying for LeBron to find deep peace and satisfaction at last. But I know he won’t find contentment on the basis of accomplishments alone. Nor will it come because all the naysayers have become convinced of his worth.
But LeBron’s predicament is actually a challenging lesson for all of us. Are we still trying to prove something, to ourselves or to others? Are we still on a never-ending treadmill, unable to find true inner contentment?
The message today—whether to LeBron James, to you, and to me—is found in the wise words of Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
So if you don’t seem likely to win an NBA championship anytime soon, that’s okay. Lasting satisfaction and fulfillment will always prove elusive if they are based on our accomplishments. Instead, they must be found in God’s unconditional affirmation and love. That’s the ultimate ring we should be chasing.