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LeBron James holds candid Twitter Q&A, shows how far we’ve come.

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Photo: Flickr/Gustavo Mazzarollo

We all know the journey LeBron James has taken to reach his current stature in the NBA. He was the Chosen One coming out of high school, then he was the second coming in Cleveland and, as we all also remember, public enemy number one following his signing with the Miami Heat. We remember the vitriol, and the backlash and jersey burnings. All of that doesn’t need to be reiterated again at this time. However, after three and a half years and two NBA titles James has mostly rebuilt his public image, and not just with Samsung commercials. No, on Friday James held a Q&A on Friday morning where he was asked about anything and everything and the Miami Heat star shied away from nothing, including a crack at his own disappointing play in the 2011 NBA Finals:

Of all of the candid responses James gave in the session, this one resonated with me the most. At the time this was a huge deal because the “LeBron can’t win on his own” narrative was at it’s height and those Finals only caused the anti-LeBron sentiment to grow further, evolving into a referendum on his entire career although he was only eight years into it. This was also the performance that caused James to take a break from basketball for two weeks following the Mavericks’ series win, which should tell you that he took the 2011 Finals very seriously.

James’ response to a question that had nothing to do with basketball is indicative of someone who has accepted their past failures and made peace with a challenging time in his life. Now, thanks in part to his recent postseason success, James can laugh at himself, which takes a lot for most people no less the best basketball player on the planet. Certainly, the all-star forward has come a long way from retweeting people who bombard his Twitter mentions with racial slurs and other pejoratives to give us an idea of just what he is going through. Yes, life seems to be easier for James in terms of public interactions, evidenced by this next tweet from the same session:

The most interesting thing about the relationship between LeBron James and basketball people — an all encompassing term I’m using to lump fans, media and casual observers into one group — is the amount of personal growth, self-reflection and maturity it’s required to reach the level we are at today. Granted it was through a keyboard, but to tell anyone that you used to hate them and you now respect them is a big step and James being gracious towards him following his admission was a big step for him as well. After all we still remember the ill-advised the quote about his haters still having to wake up and live their lives everyday (paraphrasing.) We saw last year how one title appeared to alleviate the burdens he carried since he was a high schooler in Akron and it appears with two under his belt he is more comfortable than ever in his own skin.

Everyone one of us has parts of our pasts that we must eventually work through and reconcile in order to move on in our lives. We’ve all had our moments of glory as well as our share of failures and disappointments, but most of us don’t have to live those moments out in the public eye. The point here isn’t about glorifying this because he’s an athlete, but because this display of personal growth is relatable on a  human level.  For LeBron, basketball has always come easy but he experienced the trials each great player must experience in their career. Yet, in this day and age of social media we get a glimpse into something more that we haven’t with great players in the past and that is how these challenges benefit them off-court as well. For further proof, the last question James was asked what success was to him and he simply replied, “happiness.” And that is something that we can all identify with.

 

Derek James

In addition to writing for Hardwood Paroxysm, Derek James covers the Minnesota Timberwolves for Howlin’ T-Wolf and the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. He often finds himself writing too many words on irrelevant players. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter. Unrelated to LeBron James, but taught him everything he knows.