The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect

He did it again. Against all odds, LeBron James led the Cavs to another victory against Golden State in San Franciso. Cleveland went wild. While Dave and I were reading in bed after the game, cars were blasting their horns under or windows. Fans are jubilant.

We’ve watched all the playoffs. I should say that I watch intermittently, I find the excitement almost too much to bear. I am a “pussy” according to Dave. Towards the end of all of the playoff games, I leave the room to brush my teeth or take a shower. In basketball a lead of 6 points can be lost in the blink of an eye. I just can’t sit and watch that happen.

I went to see the movie about how LeBron got started as a basketball player. More Than a Game was a revealing insight about the psyche of James and his friends growing up in Akron and how they became like family to each other. Instead of a father, James had his coaches as male mentors. Despite his closeness to his teammates it was clear LeBron had a unique talent for basketball, but also the ability to lead others and earn respect. He overcame a very difficult childhood to find his path through sport. It could all have turned out differently.

Through overcoming adversity, loyalty to his team, respect for his coaches, and dedication to his family and community, James has become a beacon of hope and an admirable example to the youth of Akron, Cleveland, and around the country. The LeBron James Family Foundation has given kids bikes, prom dresses, computers, and a lot more. Most important is his personal involvement with the kids in Akron.
I may be imagining this, but I think his return to Ohio and to the Cavs, his amazing push to lead these men through pain and discouragement to these victories has also psyched the Indians to do better. Not only is Cleveland “cool” now, but all of this good news about the city and its sports has given everyone a bump up in pride. We are no longer the loser on the Lake. We point with accomplishment not only to the Cavs but all the other growth in our town. One man can have this incredible ripple effect. Now I see with my own eyes how many leaders are out ahead and get others to follow through their example. One person alone can make significant change.

Now I’m not saying LeBron is without fault. I also know he will not stick around Northeast Ohio forever. At least he won’t live here forever. Even on the basketball court we know he has his limitations. He knows this too. He is moody and he’s been known to throw his coaches and teammates under the bus. He always gives credit to his team and coaches even when key players are out for the season and it feels like he is dragging all the other players on his sprained ankles. Also, I’ve been burned by having heroes before (Lance Armstrong). But it feels good to believe again. It feels right to see people everywhere wearing their 23 Cavs shirts. And, no matter the outcome of the finals, I have faith that fans around here will be grateful for one man who played through the pain, who looked like a confident believer, and who came back to prove to us and himself that we are winners no matter what the scoreboard might say.