The Return of the King

The more I learn about LeBron James, the more I'm absolutely impressed by him and wonder what makes him tick. I'm not even talking about the basketball player; I'm talking about the man he's become. The truth is this. LeBron is an exceptional human that handles his fame and wealth better than 99% of us ever would.  The whole phenemenon makes me think about why people choose to help SuNica do it's thing, or to do good in the world in the first place.  So, why did LeBron do it? 

This is why:

We've all heard that LeBron was raised by a very young and single mom. We haven't always heard that she let him move in with his peewee football coach when he was nine. Frank Walker was this peewee football coach and raised a stable family in the suburbs of Akron, Ohio. Frank introduced Lebron to basketball and the rest is history. By the time he was 14, people knew that he was headed for the NBA, and at 16 his mom somehow secured a loan for an H2 Hummer, which caused a big stir in the media and threw doubt into our minds as to what kind of guy Lebron would turn out to be.

Then came the big departure from Cleveland in which he pissed off the entire state of Ohio and half of the sports world. I could sense that this was accidental on his part and that he simply didn't think it through. Even still, It was an immature move at best, and the general public once again questioned his character.  

As we all began to notice the Miami Heat gelling into a seemingly sure fire championship team, I started to notice the way he played. His game didn't have the feel of an alpha dog with a killer instinct, although he clearly knew how good he was. His assists and relatively few shots attempted per game showed that he was very much into the concept of 'team.' Anyone who knew basketball could tell he was leaving 5 to 8 points on the table every night in order to get other guys involved and put the Heat in a better position to win. Compare this to a guy up in New York who scores a ton but will never win a championship. I won't name any names...

Most alpha dogs that excel in their sport have a much different personality. Look at Tiger Woods. He ignores most people around him, including his own employees and the young kids seeking his autograph at tournaments. In Hank Haney's book, "The Big Miss", he talks about how Tiger would regularly eat popsicles in the evenings, but never offered him one.

Compare this with LeBron's statement to Lee Jenkins of SI.com last week.  

"I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get."

The remarkable thing is that he's saying this to a group that publicly spurned him four years ago and continued to do so until Saturday of last weekend. Some might call it propaganda, but I don't think so. I think he knows first hand what can happen to the kids who get stuck in the neighborhoods where he spent his first 9 years. And I think he genuinely cares.  That's a big part of why he's coming home....of why his move is more than strategic and selfish, but perhaps even a life-altering good deed.

At SuNica, we're in the business of helping Nicaraguans thrive through clean water, education, and Discipleship. For most of the folks that work with us, I wonder what drives them to care about the plight of Nicaragua.  I wonder about it because I know that certain motivations can be fleeting and truly aren't sustainable.   I wonder what is living inside of LeBron James that makes him care so much about Northeast Ohio. He's been called King James, and I suppose I'm saying that he's a good king.  As the CEO of a non profit organization, I have to cipher where true goodness actually comes from, especially since we claim to be doing something good.  For this reason, we're going to write a blog about goodness, and where it comes from.  This ought to be fun.  Stay tuned for the next SuBlog.

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