Friday , Jun , 22 , 2012 Matt Formica

Loving What You Do and Becoming a Champion

Loving What You Do and Becoming a Champion

Our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, colleagues, mentors, and all those with more experience and knowledge and time on this earth have been telling us forever:  Do what you love, and everything will be ok.

Hoopsvibe’s Quick Call:  The more you love what you do, the more successful you’ll be.

As a kid, doing what you love comes easy.  When you’re young, you have zero obligations to society.  (Other than having to go to school.)  There are no bills to pay or real world responsibilities to manage.  All you want to do is play and you know that playing makes you happy.  And because playing makes you happy and you get to play a lot as a kid, as a result, you enjoy life.   You’re a champion in your own right because you love what you do. 

But as you get older, and merge into that new lifestyle of becoming an "adult," it becomes harder to find time to play.  Responsibilities get in the way and force us to do things we may not love.  Like go get a job that pays us money but doesn’t necessarily make us happy, for example.  We begin to do things for reasons other than the fact that we love doing them.  And that’s normal, it’s what most of us do.  We do those things because we feel like we have to. 

But we also need to constantly be striving to find what it is that we love so we can just go play.  Essentially then, as I am coming to find, the key to life is to become a mature kid, if that makes any sense.  To carry yourself well, to treat others with respect, to be a good person and a responsible adult but also, to always feel like you’re playing.  To always feel like that kid that is just doing what you love, and loving what you do.

It is this concept, that in my opinion, took Lebron James from being one of the greatest basketball players of all time, to being a champion.  Like him or hate him, Lebron James became what I call a ‘mature kid’ this season.

After the Heat went up 3-1 on the Thunder, James made a comment to the media that struck me more than anything he has ever said in the 10 plus years I’ve been following his career.  He said, "Last year I played to prove people wrong instead of just playing my game, instead of just going out and having fun and playing a game that I grew up loving."  He continued, "I was very immature last year after Game 6 toward you guys and toward everyone that was watching.  One thing that I learned, and someone taught me this, the greatest teacher you can have in life is experience."

These words were significant to me for a few reasons.  First of all, admitting immaturity is hard for many people; and coming from a guy as hated as Lebron’s been, it shows a significant level of mental growth.  Secondly, and more importantly, it was clear to me that his play in this postseason was directly correlated to the fun he was having.  He wasn’t playing for the wrong reasons.  He was playing the game he loved to play, and that was making all the difference.

Love him or hate him, it’s a lesson to us all.  We can all take a step back and look at how much happier and more successful we all are, when we do what we love. Doing what Lebron loved was the difference between getting knocked out in the Finals by Dallas last year, and earning his first championship ring this year.  He said it again himself after the victory last night.  Last year he played with more hate; and this year, with more love.

And look at what that simple mental transformation led to.  Winning the championship last night capped off one of the greatest individual runs in playoff history.  In this year’s postseason, Lebron AVERAGED 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game.  He became the 10th player in NBA history to win the regular season MVP, finals MVP, and NBA Championship in the same season.  His triple double in last night’s game made him only the 5th player in history to do so in a closeout finals game, joining the likes of Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Larry Bird.  He became the first player ever to record at least 650 points, 200 rebounds, and 100 assists in a postseason run – and he became the only player to score 25 points or more in 15 consecutive post season games.

He also led the Heat to become the only team in NBA history to win the NBA Championship after having trailed in every postseason series.  And Miami’s team didn’t change much this year from last.  If you ask me, this Oklahoma City team, who I greatly respect and think will go on to be champions in the very near future, are much more talented than the Mavericks squad who Miami lost to last year.  James was just as good of a player then as he is now, but by simply playing and enjoying the game, Lebron was able to not only elevate his own play, but the play of his teammates as well.   

And as he jumped up and down on the sidelines in the closing minutes of last night’s game, grinning from ear to ear, hugging his teammates, knowing he finally accomplished what he had set out to, I couldn’t help but think how much of a kid he appeared to be.  Lebron James never looked happier.  He looked like the inner kid in all of us.  The kid that was doing what he loved and loving what he was doing.  In that moment of utter elation, James became that mature kid we all strive to be. 

And he became a Champion.

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Image source:  AP Images