Over a year ago I shared an opinion with the world. But tonight, I realized just how wrong I was.
You see, a year ago I, James Winskowski, was married and living peacefully in Sandy, Utah. LeBron James, meanwhile, had just suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. Years of practice and passion had lead him to the cusp of professional basketball’s apex, but his profession’s biggest payoff fell just beyond his grasp.
I had my thoughts and theories about what had gone wrong. Why had LeBron “choked?” What had led him to play as though he had, in my words, “been swallowing Kryptonite by the fistful?”
My theory was that by turning his back on the city of his birth and the fellow citizens who called it home, LeBron had done something severely damaging to his psyche. I thought that the Cleveland crowd had buoyed him up, lifted his spirits, and served as his extended family. I thought, in my misguided ignorance, that LeBron had taken the easy way out and turned his back on the ones that he needed most.
But LeBron knew better.
You see, what I didn’t realize about LeBron is that it wasn’t the extended family in the stands that lifted him up and propelled him forward. No, it wasn’t the fans at all. In fact, there wasn’t something missing after he left Cleveland. Something was missing in Cleveland.
In the article I ended up writing about it, titled “LeBreakdown,” I included the following line: “Recalling his childhood basketball teammates, he says ‘I wanted to finally have some brothers that I could be loyal to…we all kind of shared that bond.’” It wasn’t the fans in the crowd, it wasn’t his mother watching from the front row, it was his brothers on the floor that LeBron needed to succeed. They made it worth the hard work. They lifted his spirits when he was down.
And they were missing from his team in Cleveland.
So when LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Summer of 2010, he wasn’t leaving behind a family; He was joining one. In uniting with good friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he was once again joining a band of brothers that he could be loyal to. And since doing so, he’s reached the goal he always dreamed of.
Tonight as I lay in my bed in Las Vegas, single, feeling dissatisfied with the progress I’m seeing in my own path into my future, I couldn’t help but think of the real lesson LeBron James was teaching me: If you don’t have the ones (or “the one”) you love by your side every step of the way, nothing in life is worth a thing.
Home is where your team plays.