It’s a done deal: Lebron left Cleveland. Now why, as a doctor, would I mention this?
Turns out Lebron is from my hometown. My daughter knows where she lives, everyone knows. I was recently talking to a doctor friend of mine who said that people stop him when he is riding a bike to ask how to get to Lebron’s house (which he gladly gives). They live in the rich part of the city, a beautiful area, much more beautiful than Miami.
I respect Lebron. I respect your talent. I respect that in his post-game interviews he freely gave of his time, and I have never heard him speak ill of anyone. He’s the same age as my son, graduated from high school the same year, and has certainly chosen to deal with stressors that most ‘kids’ his age never have to address. I know that his life is not perfect and that he continues to face challenges common to all of us.
But back to the question, why did Lebron leave? I’ve heard him say multiple times that he wanted to win championships and I believe him. Maybe I could do this in Cleveland, maybe not. I can see that it would be frustrating to be recognized as the best basketball player, but not win the highest award. Are you really the best if your team is not? I understand that you want to push yourself to the limit, grab the golden ticket. Winning is very important in America, especially for men, especially those who grew up in a disadvantaged home.
But Lebron’s hometown cared if he stayed. And his hometown is Akron, not Cleveland. In fact, our pastor mentioned some billboards that he hadn’t seen, urging Lebron to stay. The billboards consisted of a single word: Family. Mission. Home. People wanted him to stay because they wanted him to affirm the value of his friends, his people, his family. From a community point of view, we wanted our ‘hero’ to remain our hero and friend. It always hurts when someone leaves the nest. It always makes those left behind feel like we’re somehow unworthy.
I’m not really a sports fanatic (since my own kids graduated from high school sports). But he wanted Lebron to stay. People in Akron, in Cleveland, in Ohio would have loved him forever. When parents abandon their children, children always suffer. When heroes abandon their followers, they feel rejected, unloved, unimportant.
But when I look at other men his age, including my own son, they are rarely at the point in their lives where they understand this. Sure, they understand intellectually. They understand very well when someone leaves them. But they still don’t see it clearly when the shoe is on the other foot. For them, proving themselves is paramount, probably biological. Manhood is defined by achievement, not loyalty.
And dare I say it? It is only a game. Perhaps Lebron understands this better than we do.
So I understand why Lebron left and I hope he achieves his dream. It is wonderful to rejoice with someone who achieves your greatest hope. There is nothing wrong with trying to win, nothing wrong except, perhaps, for the message it sends. But he’s not old enough yet to go beyond winning.
Return? I do not know. But it has already been delivered to our community. I believe you recognize that your many blessings place you with the responsibility to give back. Let’s say goodbye to him with a hero farewell. Let’s wish him the best and make him happy to come home. Let’s send him the message that we love him anyway, whether he plays basketball in Cleveland or not. After all, he is our family and our friend.
Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD