Analysis, dreams, People, Poetry, Reflection

Courage 2: Lebron James’ Water

A moment before waking on Sunday morning, I had a dream. I like to write dreams in the present-tense, maybe use line-breaks for effect:

...then, we walk down a hill, through
a well-maintained lawn punctuated with flowering trees,
to a big house, to get Lebron James' water. 
I am invited
(we know)
to cross the wrap-around porch
beneath the awning wrapping-around mansion, 
into the doorway I unlocked for all of us. We enter
a brief, dark hallway. Then,
I am in Lebron James' kitchen
as a guest
(no one is home).
The sun is setting, the blinds are partially closed,
so slits of pale, golden light paint the cupboards on the wall
opposite the sink. The kitchen ceiling is high
(preportionate to the owner's height, maybe
higher) and the chest-high cupboards are like big closet-doors which--
like Lebron in a home-jersey -- are each 
clean and sorted, dressed in white.

I probe a dim space; nobody thinks to find the light-switch...

know the water is inside. It's for us. I open a cupboard
and just barely see the bottles of water:
clean and sorted. They are tall, glass cylinders
with wide-caps for wide-openings, for generous pourings. We know
it's healthy water. There's no pretense of a potion, nor defiance
of physics: Lebron James' water is simply something we need
to live well.
I'm invited to get it, to grab it
for all of us-- whomever that is.
I stretch my torso to extend my arm, flexing my calves
to raise my whole body, and I am able to reach one--

I flexed my calves, waking myself, and reached for the jam-jar full of water on my bedside table: chugged it. “First, take care of my body.” Even in my groggy state, on a weekend morning, “Lebron James’ water” is synonymous with caring for a body.

There is not much I can say about Lebron James that hasn’t been said. Books will be written about him. My unconscious mind was using what I intuit about Lebron– attempting to tell me something I need to know about Courage and growth.

I realized his longevity will be key to his legacy for the generations that follow mine. I’m just a few years younger than him, so I remember the media flurry that surrounded a young Lebron. For older generations, Lebron James must’ve seemed synonymous with precocity: a ‘new sensation’, possible fad. Yet for most of his 20+ years career he was a consumate-veteran basketball-player (I didn’t need to mention basketball, before, because readers already know LJ is a baller). Younger people will remember him as a fixture of excellence in and beyond his sport, consistent and durable.

Understand: journalists and enthusiasts used an understanding of the NBA forged in the 1980s and 1990s to lens predictions about Lebron James. Some ‘old-heads’ saw his budding talent and seized the opportunity to create a huge wave of hype they could ride. Others, privately or publicly, feared yet another young man’s life would end in wreckage due to drugs and scandal.

Lebron must’ve heard all of that. He reacted adaptively. The wisdom of Lebron James is believing he could be as great as predicted while discerning what it would take, never assuming greatness would be automatic. He did take care of his body. He did continue practicing and training with great dedication. He married his sweetheart and started a family, creating a relatively stable home-life. We sometimes fear confidence (in ourselves or others) because it so easily ferments into hubris. Yet Lebron James demonstrated it’s not inevitable. No one is perfect all the time (or to all people) but Lebron’s handful of bad sound-bytes and floundered ideas are dwarfed by the overall positive impact of his career. Lebron James’ “water” is confidence redeemed with appreciating value!

I’m not wading into the GOAT discussion (Greatest Of All Time). People will always chime-in “but [whomever]” is greater for X, Y, & Z reasons: “but Michael”, “but Kareem”, “but Magic”.

Magic Johnson is always ‘ours’ in my imagintion: he grew-up in Michigan; won the NCAA basketball title for Michigan State in 1979; I rode my bike past a statue of him many times when I played with the athletic-band in Spring of 2006. Magic enticed Lebron to join the Los Angeles Lakers and continue to expand his business and media influence after basketball with L.A. as a base of operations. Matt Barnes and Steven Jackson just interviewd Magic on their podcast “All the Smoke” and… I’m starting to elaborate too much!

Here’s the pith: I think sports-media couldn’t predict how well Lebron James would ride his own wave. He leveraged money and attention into meaningful agency (Rich Paul is part of that). James Wiseman commented on Andre Iguodala’s podcast (“Point Forward”) that he wants to do philanthropic work like Lebron does (via The Lebron James Family Foundation). Once Lebron made philanthropic work part of his high-profile brand, doing cocaine like a tragic b-baller from the 1980s lost its luster. The Lebron James that Wiseman admires is clean and sorted but also influential, sometimes provocative in the best ways.

We don’t have to say “but Lebron”, we can say “AND Lebron” (and Kobe, and Steph, and whomever comes next…)

While I’m reflecting, let’s tackle this: we talked about Lebron, in 2003, as if so-much-money would shape him more than so-much-discourse. Not so: the media-crucible made Lebron more than what’s in his bag. One of his most criticized junctures was “The Decision” — a televised event centered around whether he would stay in Cleveland or leave for Miami in 2010. His good-taste was questioned. Yet it seems natural to me: journalists thrust him into the limelight, which is the driver’s seat, so, yes: he grabbed the steering wheel. Some of the proceeds were donated to the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of America– I would call that a success? Nevertheless, he learned and adapted. He would do it differently if he could do it again.

Lebron won a chamionship with Dwayne Wade in Miami. Not all star-studded teams are successful but LJ, D-Wade, and crew learned to be a team. He returned to Cleveland and won there, too, fulfilling an implicit promise to Cavaliers’ fans. He never stopped supporting his home-city of Akron, OH, but he knew when his championship phases in Miami and Cleveland were over. He learned when and how to move-on, stayed open to possibilities, networked well, and delegated when necessary. He evolved from an object of discussion in sports to a subject with broader influence over popular culture.

Lebron’s water is what’s best for Lebron, true, but it’s also good for many others.

I was not surprised when he moved to Los Angeles: he learned from Magic Johnson. The water wasn’t “magic”, it was “Magic’s”. Lebron’s water is what Magic’s influence could’ve been if he hadn’t started his professional career in 1979. To his credit, Magic is proud to boost Lebron. The water I removed from the cupboard in my dream was not ‘new’… it was revived! The water is renewal! It’s not separate from Magic Johnson nor exclusive to the two of them. It’s like Magic investing in movie-theaters and coffee-shops in black neighborhoods: he profitted as a businessman but the benefits spread to entire communities.

In those tall, glass bottles, on a high shelf, inside the twilight kitchen of my unconscious mind, I find the substance: for me to flourish and bring you all with me into abundance. Do I believe I can get that water?

Do I have Courage like that?


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