With LeBron James now entering his eleventh year in the NBA, it's truly fascinating to consider just how far he has come from the player he was when he was first drafted, to the icon that he has become now. After coming out of St. Vincent. - St. Mary High School in 2003 to the pros, during a season that saw other stars like Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, "King" James soared above the rest to earn rookie of the year honors.
Since then, the Ohio-native has been regarded as everything from a hometown hero to the Cleveland Cavaliers, to the phenom, to the best player in the game, to a choke artist, to a sell out who took his talents to South Beach, to the villain, to the two-time NBA champion who couldn't care less what label you'd give him next because, quite simply, he ain't got no worries.
These days, after coming on top victorious in two consecutive NBA Finals appearances, there aren't many detractors to vehemently come for LeBron's head, simply because he's left them little to no room to do so. His road to success, however, has by no means been smooth. In fact, LeBron James has had one of the more turbulent career paths out of all superstars of the past decade in American sports. It's been a decade full of moments that would test anyone's character and, like all tests, there's been something to take away from those moments.
Those takeaways are the bullet points that comprise this list. So, here they are, the three lessons of success that everyone can learn from the career of LeBron James:
Do What's Right For You, Regardless Of What People Who Have No Bearing On Your Life Think
Admit it. There are times you'd like to do something, but you allow the way other people think affect your own thinking about decisions that, at the end of the day, are yours. "What will they say?" "What will they think?" "How will that make me look to them?" Whether it be our parents, our "friends," co-workers or fellow students, there will also be people whose perceptions we're wary of when we want to do something.
And by all means, sage advice should be taken when you're on the verge of making a big decision, but what shouldn't happen is shying away from something you well deserve just because others think you aren't entitled to it. The prospect of people hating on you because you're doing what you want should never be a hindrance.
Just ask LeBron, who after fulfilling his seven years of contractual obligation to the Cleveland Cavaliers, exercised his right as a free agent, except it wasn't the move that people expected from him. After leaving to join a "super team" in Miami, James was blasted from practically all four corners of the earth for his "betrayal" of Cleveland. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert promised that Cleveland would win a championship before LeBron, fans labelled him a sellout, while pundits argued that he'd done irreparable damage to his legacy.
Three years later, Gilbert looks ridiculous, the critics are running out of anti-LeBron material and those same fans are likely salivating over the prospect of LeBron returning to Cleveland next summer while the superstar himself chases after a three-peat.
The move has clearly paid off. That's just the long-term view, however, his short-term response, as shown through this Nike commercial, was as clear as ever. LeBron James doesn't have to do what everyone else wants him to and neither do you.
Being The Best Doesn't Mean Having To Be Selfish
There's no reason to be cynical about attaining success. Yes, there are times you have to do what's best for yourself, but the addition of an obsessive, ruthless, selfish and self-centered mentality isn't necessary
LeBron has reached a status that sees him as the undisputed best player in the league, but he's done it in a way that hasn't sacrificed his selfless side. He's always been known for getting his teammates involved, almost to a fault -- Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan would never pass the ball in certain situations, ya' know -- and has never had a problem sharing the spotlight with others.
The way that LeBron has gone about his business on the road to winning four MVP awards, four Eastern Conference championship and two NBA titles, with all the fun that he's had along the way, has shown once again that it's not all about how you get there it's that you get there period.
He's definitely gotten "there," all while never taking himself too seriously.
Give Yourself Time Before You Start Making Comparisons
We all have our own aspirations. We all have that specific point that we want to reach in life, the point that we regard as the pinnacle of our careers. For one person, it could be becoming a partner at a law firm, for another person it could be becoming a doctor. For LeBron James, naturally, the pinnacle would be becoming regarded as the best basketball player that ever lived.
Sometimes, however, it might be tempting to look at yourself in the moment and feel discouraged or, even worse, defeated because it just doesn't look like you're on track to make it. You look at the trajectory of your life in comparison to others (maybe a role model or a peer that seems to be doing better than you) and conclude that it's just unlikely that you'll be where you want to be.
Often time, though, this reaction comes because we underestimate just how much time and how many years have to be put into progressing towards a goal. And we also underestimate that trajectories were meant to be deflected, sometimes drastically. One year, or a season, can change every thing. After years of people throwing back-handed compliments -- "most talented player ever," nothing more and just the "second best" player in the league -- as a way of saying "you'll never be the greatest."
Four years ago, people would have laughed if the now four-time MVP hinted at the possibility of going down in history as the best there ever was. Now, though, he has two championship trophy-sized platforms on which he can stand and say, I can reach that pinnacle. And few people would be able to dispute it.
"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter where people rank me all time," he told USA Today. "But for me, I have a personal goal to be the greatest."
Top photo credit: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images