I’m a LeBron lover. The man has a talent and passion for the game that is contagious. But not everyone loves him. LeBron James hasn’t always made it easy to be a fan of him. When he abandoned Cleveland (his home team—he was born in Akron, Ohio) and made a large public spectacle of it, he didn’t do himself any favors. After winning two championships with Miami, LeBron went back to the Cavs, and on Sunday night he led Cleveland to its first major title since 1964.
When they were in the heat of the series, tensions were high and egos were on the line. LeBron and Draymond Green even got into a shoving match. After the trash talking and the subsequent physicality, Klay Thompson, another Warrior, said LeBron misbehaved because “his feelings just got hurt.” Thompson said it was a “man’s league” and he was “shocked some guys take it so personal.” Apparently, taking your passion personally is a bad thing.
Thompson gave LeBron another low blow, after Green literally did. LeBron then declared that he was taking the high road by not responding to Thompson’s comments. And he did. He made history. The team was down three games to one (a deficit no team had ever come back from in the NBA Finals), and won three straight against the defending champs and the best regular season team, the Golden State Warriors.
And then his emotions were all over the place. Already a contender for replacing the infamous Crying Jordan meme, is LeBron’s teary face after he won this championship. LeBron finally let his emotions out. And I’m glad! It was his best moment, even better than his career-defining block.
Not enough men do it. The drama between LeBron, Klay, and Draymond is the kind of soap opera that makes it so hard for men to talk about how they feel and demonstrate vulnerability. And it’s not just big guys on the court who don’t do this. The whole culture plays into it. When we don’t do that, it’s hard to pray and it’s hard to worship.
These men are leading us to not be our full selves. They are diminishing themselves into what the world has made them. Armed with power and privilege, men have become cogs in a bigger machine instead of members of the Body of Christ, bringing the fullness of the Kingdom of God to the world. LeBron James, then, in his emotional display, shows us that another way is possible. That it’s OK to be passionate, open, and vulnerable. He did get the final say in the end, essentially undoing some of that vulnerability by declaring conquest over his victims (on Instagram, no less).
But I think we saw a glimmer of hope in LeBron when he finally cried, when he finally let go. He went back to his hometown, swallowed his pride, and finally took the high road by not letting his machismo lead him. He was authentic, open, vulnerable, and real. And I might be playing into this too much, but I think that openness is critical to worshiping God. Allowing Him to know us is a challenge in a world that oppresses that kind of openness. But, that vulnerability is possible in the safe place God is creating in us.
I hope then that all of us, not just men, can open ourselves to God and what he has given us. It’s hard for me to do this. I’m often fearful of vulnerability, of being known, of being exposed. The world has taught me this, but I’ve reinforced it plenty on my own. So today, my prayer is to be open, available, accessible to God and what he’s doing in the world. It’s tempting to be self-sufficient and closed off as I manicure my appearance. But today, I’m praying that I let go of that. May I clothe myself with Christ, put on his mind, and chase after his heart.
And yeah, LeBron taught me all of that on Sunday night.