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My Advice for LeBron James

Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) and Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) in the second half of their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles on December 25, 2010. UPI/Lori Shepler

During the 7 years LeBron played for the Cavalier’s he was hailed as their savior.  His basketball skills improved each year; he led the Cavs to an NBA finals appearance and to the best record in the Eastern Conference. He also won two MVP awards in the process.

As someone who followed Cavalier basketball as an outsider, it seemed that LeBron was really loved.  When he complained that the team needed to add some more talent to their roster, the front office listened. When he made other requests, ownership made sure it happened.

In those days, LeBron wasn’t viewed negatively in Cleveland. Indeed, James was the darling of the NBA and the dream player for every NBA franchise. Boy, how things have changed. LeBron is not a well-liked individual anymore, outside of Miami.  He is booed in every arena, and is viewed as a selfish, egotistical, and arrogant traitor who turned his back on his hometown. The saying “It takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it,” perfectly describes LeBron’s standing among his once loyal fans.

Some say that it all began when he stopped putting in effort during a playoff game last season against the Celtics. All agree, however, that he destroyed his image by running a one hour special on ESPN dubbed, “The Decision,” in which he told the world that he was going to take his talents to South Beach. Since then, his image has continued to flounder.

LeBron has been asked whether, if given the chance, he would repeat “The Decision” TV exclusive, and whether he felt bad for the way things happened. This is how he responded: “I don’t want to apologize. My intention was not to hurt anyone, my intention was solely on kids during the whole process (a reference to the boys & girls club, to which all the proceeds of the event went to). I always say the decisions I make I live with them. There’s always ways that you can correct them, or ways that you can do them better, but at the end of the day I live with them. I’m satisfied and I’m happy right now.”

Last week word got out that James has hired a marketing company; not to improve his image, but to solicit sponsors for the “LeBron James Dinner Party Tour.” That’s right. LeBron is going to throw a bunch of parties in different cities and is looking for sponsors of up to $500,000. One party is understandable, and I would overlook the cost for the event even if the tab was a few million dollars.  Having multiple parties across the country is a bit over the top. That is more like King Achashveirosh and his 180 days of festivities.

Later in the week, LeBron told reporters that by shrinking the NBA teams and franchises, competition would improve. “Imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the (league),” James told reporters last Thursday. “Looking at some of the teams that aren’t that great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren’t that good right now and you add him to a team that could be really good. Not saying let’s take New Jersey and let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid, I’m not stupid, it would be great for the league.”  Advocating for contraction which would cost his colleagues their jobs was not received well by them.

If you didn’t think James could top that, you were wrong.  On Monday he tried to clarify what he meant and instead made headlines for being contradictory. “That’s crazy,” he said about claims that he’s in favor of ‘contraction’, “because I had no idea what the word ‘contraction’ meant before I saw it on the Internet,” James said after the Miami Heat‘s practice Monday. “I never even mentioned that. That word never even came out of my mouth. I was just saying how the league was back in the ’80s and how it could be good again. I never said, ‘Let’s take some of the teams out.’ “

Clearly, LeBron just doesn’t get it.  His ‘inner circle’ of friends who are supposed to be giving him sound advice don’t get it. You have to wonder whether they should continue to advise him, because he is just one public relation disaster after another.

The biggest hurdle facing LeBron is that he doesn’t have the self-awareness to recognize his mistakes. He continues to believe that the media intentionally portrays him as an evil villain and is out to get him.  To his dismay, he’s got it backwards.  The media is highly critical of him because he hasn’t been able to handle himself professionally.  If he would only be wise enough to listen to the criticism and reflect on it in a serious manner, he would be in a much better position. If he knew how to take stock of himself and his actions, the media would be kinder and more forgiving.

Our Rabbis teach us that personal inventory/ self-criticism is something that must be done on a daily basis. This is what we call a “Cheshbon HaNefesh,” taking stock of our actions and behaviors.  If reflected upon critically, a “Cheshbon HaNefesh” will help us recognize our mistakes and improve. If LeBron utilizes this ancient method of reflection he would be viewed in a much fairer light.  His inability to recognize his faults continues to negatively affect his image.

Scripture states (Proverbs 4:26), “Consider the path of your feet and all of your paths will be established.” If Lebron is able to unlock the power of his own self-improvement, he will be able to capture the hearts of the NBA fans back (except for those in Cleveland) by recognizing his mistakes, apologizing for them, and pledging to improve.

LeBron is by no means unique in this aspect. We do not like to take ourselves to task for making mistakes.  It’s much easier to criticize others than one’s self.  A “Cheshbon HaNefesh,” therefore, is a very intimidating proposition. It forces us to be honest with ourselves and requires that we pledge to improve. It’s not easy to do, but if done properly can be transformational.

To err is human,” as the saying goes. We are not infallible and neither is LeBron James.  What all of us need to do is rededicate ourselves to self-improvement and commit to becoming better and better each day. As the famous writer, Aldous Huxley, once said, “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”

LeBron, let’s use our talents to improve our lives and the lives of others. And do us a favor: expand your inner-circle to include experienced professionals who will be honest and straight with you, for they really know what’s best.

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