LeBron is not the one to sit back and wait for good things to happen, or save all the unpleasant errands for ‘future James’. LeBron takes matter into his own hands in a proactive manner and that is perhaps the biggest secret to his sustained success at the top. Many high-profile athletes suffer from poor fitness and weight gain during the latter parts of their career. This also increases the risk of injury for them, especially for athletes with bigger frames. Shaquille O’Neal is a classic example of an NBA athlete who struggled with weights that clearly limited his in-game abilities as the weight gain was not so surprisingly followed by repeated injuries. LeBron acknowledged this even before something bad had happened to him. He realized that as his body was getting older so would increase the risks of injuries, and his supernatural body weight, which he has used to his advantage on the court over the years is eventually going to become a burden. And once injured, it would become even more difficult to get back to his original body shape. So, he decided to be proactive, and took the preventive initiative of losing over 20 pounds before his 11th NBA season (Manfred, 2014). The results were imminent, LeBron’s body is still to show any sign of fatigue despite 14 years of full NBA seasons and 8 Finals.
The one thing that is repeated by LeBron frequently in his interviews is his family. LeBron is very happy in his family life and he does not allow his on-court struggles or failures to interfere with his happiness in his personal life. After a hard-fought season LeBron always makes the most of his summer with his family. Even after suffering a dreadful loss against the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 Finals, LeBron looked happy as ever in his summer vacation pictures with his family (Ellentuck, 2017). In turn, this strong bonding with his family has protected him from all the negativity that has surrounded him since his early days and gave him the strength to come back strong and rejuvenated year after year.
LeBron has always been the most dominant player and the undisputed leader of any team he has ever been a part of, and while he has been accused of many things in his career (e.g. attracting excessive media attention, being overly controlling, complaining too much about the roster, and so on), he has never been accused of being a bad teammate (Joseph, 2017). Even his biggest non-believers admit that LeBron is a great teammate. Many superstars don’t have this quality and they often struggle to coexist with other superstars. For example, Kobe Bryant has had quite the reputation for running teammates out of town (Dwight Howard, Shaquille O’Neal). But despite playing side by side many big stars, LeBron has never had an issue or clash of ego with another teammate regardless of their magnitudes of stardom. This has minimized the unnecessary stressors and distractions for LeBron and allowed him to focus on his game. Kyrie Irving was the first teammate who allegedly refused to play with LeBron when he demanded a trade in 2017, but only to realize his mistakes a year later when he apologized to LeBron and asked for advice (NBA.com, 2019).
Although LeBron has been known as the best player in the world for the better part of the first 14 seasons of his career, he ‘only’ won 3 championships, one scoring title, four MVP awards, and were outperformed by many in the stats sheet. But LeBron never cared if he finished second in the MVP voting, or didn’t win the scoring title more than once. LeBron appeared more interested in such individual achievements in the early days in his career, but as time progressed, he shifted and shuffled several of his goals and became more interested in winning championships. LeBron could’ve easily surrounded himself with lesser scorers or rebounders if recording unearthly stats was his main priority. But he chose to be content to look less impressive on the stats sheet as he pushed hard for more championships.
As mentioned several times in this article, LeBron loves to talk about his family, and over the years LeBron has done remarkably well to maintain his reputation as a role mode, an ideal husband and a great father. Despite his many controversial or unpopular remarks over the years you will not find many scandalous stories involving his family or personal life. This is indeed an exceptional accomplishment on part of LeBron given how so few NBA stars have been able to manage their personal lives without finding themselves in career threatening situations. Some common personal struggles many NBA superstars suffer from range from hypersexual and unsafe sexual behaviour, dysfunctional marriages/ dyadic relationships, domestic abuse, to possession of drugs, gambling addiction, physical altercation, and sexual assault.
Another high prospect talent, the winner of the 2003 Most Improved Player Award, was charged for possession of unlicensed weapons outside home for bringing a gun to the team locker room facing several consequences that included heavy fines and suspension, as well as being dropped by his sponsor Adidas, and the eventual demise of what could have been a great career.
An Icon of the post-Jordan era, a Hall of Famer, has battled with more than his share of personal struggles and controversies throughout his career, and those off-court distractions surely contributed to the decline and the eventual end of his career. Over the years, Iverson has been arrested for illegal possession of marijuana and weapons; became banned from a resort after being caught urinating outside the venue, struggled with gambling addiction, and was involved in an enduring legal battle with his wife over various issues including custody of their children.
Another first ballot hall of famer, and a more contemporary rival of LeBron for the title of the best player in the world, also lived a life filled with many controversies. Kobe’s worst controversial moment was when he was arrested for and charged with sexual assault. The criminal charges were later dropped, and the case was settled outside the court, and while there remains dispute over his innocence, the most loyal of Kobe devotees would admit that this controversy had caused a lot of distraction for Kobe and his career took a transient hit because of it.
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“The scope of one’s personality is defined by the magnitude of that problem which is capable of driving a person out of his wits.”
― Sigmund Freud