4 Life Lessons From Basketball

LeBron James’ breach of sports etiquette caused quite a stir. What can be made of his recent brush with unsportsmanlike conduct? Kelly Johnson, the editor of A Better Man weighs in on the life lessons to be learned from the sports stars.

He’s been called a lot of things: King James, The Chosen One, and most recently, MVP. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James has secured his place in NBA history while critics and fans alike have heralded him as an all-around good guy. What can we make of his recent brush with unsportsmanlike conduct?

Here’s what happened: At the end of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, after a hard battle between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic, the Magic prevailed. Despite the league’s policy that all players show sportsmanlike conduct and shake hands after the game, James just walked away. Refusing to do any media interviews or to congratulate players from the opposing team, he walked off the court, much to the chagrin of fans and NBA Commissioner David Stern, and it ended up earning him a $25,000 fine from the league.

James should be neither vilified nor excused for his refusal to shake hands with the team who defeated him. Rather, his behavior should be used to teach our children some important life lessons.

Basically, the message is: In most situations there’s a hard road and an easy road. Very often, the hard road is also the right road. LeBron had the chance to take it and he didn’t.

Here are four important lessons we can teach our kids about the importance of good sportsmanship:

1. Build a Positive Reputation

While LeBron’s unsportsmanlike conduct may be big news this week, chances are that this will be forgotten in the long run. Why? Because his many “rights” far outweigh this single “wrong.” What we have to explain to our boys is that while you may not always make the right decisions in life, people will be much quicker to forgive and forget if you’ve proven yourself with your actions in the past.”

2. Emotions are Okay

In post-game interviews, James explained he was upset about losing that game and that it was too hard for him to congratulate the winners in that moment. This is not surprising, considering that society demands that men not show their emotions in public. It’s not fair, or healthy, to ask men to stoically suppress their emotional responses. It’s important to point out to young boys that men, even superstar athletes like LeBron James, can be upset and sad over a loss, and it’s okay. But also explain that it’s the right thing-the manly thing-to overcome those hurt feelings.

3. Actions Don’t Go Unnoticed

A good rule of thumb is to carry yourself as if you are always being watched and make decisions in this context. In LeBron’s case, of course, he actually is being watched by millions of people nearly all the time. Even though your son may not have to worry about ESPN reporting his bad decisions, he does have a responsibility to those around him. He owes it to himself to carry himself to set a good example for others.

4. Make it Right Next Time

So, LeBron James made a mistake. It happens, and there’s a good chance it may happen again. The true test of character is how he handles himself going forward-and that will determine the outcome of this incident and whether or not he lets it define him. Explain to your kids that most of the time people won’t remember what you did, but they will remember what you didn’t do.

You have to instill in your kids that if they are wrong, it is their responsibility to admit to it, apologize, and do what needs to be done to make it right. And if the situation ever arises again in the future, it’s your chance to show that you’ve learned from your mistakes and to do the right thing the next time around. Making a mistake is one thing; being a repeat offender is something entirely different.

Adapted from A Better Man: True American Heroes Speak to Young Men on Love, Power, Pride and What It Really Means to Be a Man.

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