It’s an emotional commercial showing people from various backgrounds uniting with the city of Cleveland and King James to believe that together they can all participate in bringing a NBA championship to the state Lebron calls home.
But Nike is good with getting people to purchase their products while simultaneously making you forget about the obvious contradictions.
Contradictions that many urban cities are facing. The fact that people of all colors, shapes, sizes, and bank accounts can rally behind black bodies in NBA-apparel in professional sports arenas but those same people will watch a video of 12-year old Tamir Rice getting gunned down in 2.0 seconds by a Cleveland police officer and respond differently: “he shouldn’t have been playing with a toy gun…where are his parents…those thugs need to pull their pants up and learn some respect…”
And the contradictions go on and on and on and on in Cleveland. The King is celebrated. His image is protected. The media hangs on his every word.
While Tamir, is vilified. This 12-year old boy that they thought was a man caused officers so much fear, that rather than taking their time, making sure they were at a safe distance, and taking the proper cover, they take Tamir’s life.
And when Lebron was a 12-year old man-child he was already making coaches and agents, salivate for the opportunity to brand him as their property.
He signs a $98 million dollar contract with Nike before he is even chosen by the league. He becomes Man of the Year. He has achieved the American dream. He is President Obama’s post-racial America.
His tattoos, his high-school education, his single-parent upbringing in an impoverished community do not make him a statistic. They make him a King.
They made Tamir a target.
But King James is making his 5th straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance and has a chance to sweep the Atlanta Hawks in Cleveland in front of his home crowd, his family, his city. The mood is electric.
While protesters yell from outside in the streets that “Black Lives Matter”, Lebron will do his pre-game ritual of putting his “Hands Up” as he prepares to shoot…
Tamir’s life cut short, while Lebron strives to cut the nets.
Two souls. Two mothers’ sons. To young, black men.
Lebron and Tamir.
Both representing the same city.
One is loved.
One was feared.
Since I love making things relevant to life, I thought I’d share 5 lessons I am learning as I watch the NBA playoffs:
1. The Grass is Greener on the Other Side, but it Still has to be Cut.
Lebron James made the decision to take his talents to South Beach, and having visited both Miami and Cleveland, I can understand why a young man in his prime would like to take his talents to South Beach. But the lesson we all must learn is that the grass in Miami still needs to be cut.
I hear people make the following statements all the time: “If I lived in Atlanta or New York or L.A., I could be making so much money…if I had gone to a bigger school, I would have been an All-American…if I had more money I would help so many people…(Well, I actually don’t hear that last one as much).” But I think you get the point. We love to blame our shortcomings on our environments and we have this idea if we could just move somewhere else, things would be better, and we would immediately win not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7, but 8 world championships. Just remember, the grass still needs to be cut even in Miami.
2. Never Give Up…Anything Can Happen
If you would have told me that the Sixers would be in the second round of the playoffs tied with the Celtics in a very scrappy 2-2 series split, I’d say you didn’t know anything about basketball. But isn’t that how it usually works? You have an idea or dream and everyone and their mama tells you that it can’t be done. You are either too short, too tall, too dark, too light, too stiff, too urban, too rural, or too poor. Most people upon hearing these constructive criticisms, give up and forfeit their dreams but if the Sixers aren’t inspiring in their style of play, at least they can inspire you to keep playing. You never know when opportunity will come knocking. Until then, keep practicing, keep hustling, keep defending and keep believing. Anything can happen.
3. Great Coaches + Great Players = Success
The Big Three in San Antonio need Gregg Popovich as much as The Big Three in Boston need Doc Rivers just as much as Kobe & Shaq and MJ & Scottie needed Phil Jackson and just as much as the Bad Boys of Detroit needed Chuck Daly and the Lakers needed Pat Riley in the 80s.
Individual success is not just destroying sports but it is destroying families, friendships and businesses. You will never reach your full potential relying on your own individual talent. You need a coach. You need someone to bench you and remind you when you get away from the game plan. You need someone to set up a play for you so you don’t have to have the pressure of doing it all yourself. You need someone who recognizes your greatness but is not intimidated because they also recognize their greatness.
Many people have fallen short, not because they lacked talent, but because they lacked a coach. Don’t let that be said of you.
4. Someone has to Lead
Kobe is missing buzzer beaters and Kevin Durant isn’t, but both of them send a very loud message: Someone has to step up and take the last shot. If you really want to be great at what you do, learn to take the last shot. Embrace the spotlight, find your sweet spot, and let it fly. Okay, that is a lot of basketball language so I will say it another way: Embrace the pressure of everyone watching you, remember that you have worked really hard to get where you are, and give it your best. It won’t always end in a victory, but every time you prove you can handle pressure, you become stronger and wiser and eventually, when you are down by two with 5 seconds on the clock, you will dribble, step back behind the arc and drain the three. Lights out, game over.
Life and sports are team games, but don’t forget that there are certain plays and certain decisions that only you can make. When you decide to face those decisions head on, you are on your way to championship status.
5. Be Able to Recognize Success on top of Success on top of Success
I watch the Heat because only D-Wade can take a rebound off the rim and throw an alley oop to Lebron James at the other end of the court. I watch the Lakers to see Kobe and to find out what Hollywood star is sitting court-side. I watch the Spurs because they play like a championship team every single night and that is the way I want to play my life. I don’t want to be exciting but always fall short during the big games. I don’t want to be better but never make my teammates better. I don’t want to buy success. I want to invest in it. I’m not trying to be a legend. I am trying to be a part of something that leaves a legacy for others to follow.
You have to decide what type of player you want to be and what type of teammates you want to attract. The Spurs attract winners. No one is making choke signs on their bench because they are too busy giving high fives and supporting the players on the floor. No one is sitting outside of the huddle sulking because they had a bad game, and no one is fussing at their coach or calling out their teammates for bad plays. They simply win as a team and lose as a team and leave the drama to everyone else.
If you want to learn a lot about drama and individual success, you won’t like the Spurs. But, if for some chance you want to learn how to be a part of a successful business, band, church, organization or family, you might want to check them out. They have already given us not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 championship-reasons why they are the team to watch, and they are probably on the verge of giving us a 5th.
See you in the finals.
I will be taking notes…
P.S. I love this game!