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Humility = Blessing

As you all probably know, the Miami Heat are now the NBA champions. LeBron James—one of the most talented players to ever play the game—finally has his first ring after a nine-year career full of “potential,” but never the prize.

A lot of people rooted against the Heat, and for good reason. Two years ago, LeBron James left everyone in the dark about where he was going to play next. He announced a TV special on ESPN called “The Decision,” which was basically nothing more than self-hype and cheesy suspense. Every basketball fan was dying to know where LeBron would be going, and he knew it. He milked his popularity and renown for all it was worth. And then he struck the dagger into Cleveland’s heart on national television by finally announcing that he would be “taking [his] talents to South Beach.” They burned his jersey and their love affair turned into an intense hatred.

As a somewhat impartial viewer, I totally understood his decision from a basketball standpoint. Here he was, a one-man team, leading the Cavaliers to the NBA’s best record. He took them to the finals in 2007, but it was clear that he was not getting the help he needed. LeBron was dominating on the floor, and the rest of his team was basically watching. Even Michael Jordan—the greatest of all time—didn’t win a championship until Scottie Pippen arrived. Kobe couldn’t win without Shaq until Pau Gasol came to L.A.

LeBron’s fall from grace was swift. There’s hardly anything like it to compare to in sports. He went from one of the most respected, touted athletes in the league to the #1 villain. He was booed and mocked regularly. Honestly, it was with good reason. In addition to disrespecting Cleveland, his self-aggrandizing was getting out of hand. This “Welcome Home” party for the Miami Heat was just ridiculous: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9BqUBYaHlM. The “Big Three” was basically saying how practice was going to be tough against each other, but winning games was the “easy part.” They boldly proclaimed that they would win “not one, not two, not three…[championships].” Do you know how many great, all-time players have never won ONCE? For them to make it sound easy was a slap in the face of all the past legends.

Their first year together, Miami reached the Finals against a somewhat aging Dallas Mavericks team. Here, I must take a detour!

Miami won the championship in 2006 with Shaq and Dwayne Wade (a rising superstar at the time) at the helm. They had fallen behind 0 games to 2—beaten convincingly in those games—and Dallas did something that was brash, even by Mark Cuban’s (the owner) standards. They already began planning the victory parade, and people knew about it. They had gotten full of themselves and wrote Miami off. You know the rest: Miami won the next four games to take the championship. Dallas was devastated and humiliated.

Now in the 2011 finals, the script had been flipped. Miami was the cocky team, and Dallas was the underdog. Dallas, drawing on the pain and experience of the past 5 years, pulled off the upset and defeated the star-laden Heat team. Sports writers everywhere criticized the Heat and picked apart their flaws. As Dwayne Wade later put it, “so much pain, so much hurt, so much embarrassment.” They were put in their place.

This year, they were different. They didn’t make assumptions about their fate as champions, they simply went out and played every game hard. LeBron let go of both his hate for the media (who blasted him for “The Decision”) and his supreme arrogance…he no longer seemed to hold his nickname, “King James,” as dear. This time, drawing upon the deep well reserves of hurt and failure, the Heat triumphed over the Oklahoma City Thunder in a quick 5 games. Afterward, there was no “told you so,” chest-beating, or defiant superiority. There was relief and sincere gratitude for what they had accomplished.

LeBron admitted that he had to hit “rock bottom” before he could become the player he had to be. This makes perfect sense in light of certain passages of scripture:

James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Proverbs 3:34: “He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.”

Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Proverbs 29:23: “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”

Matthew 23:12: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

And so on, and so on…

Whether Christian or not, we as moral creatures all intuitively know that pride is wrong. It is offensive for reasons that cannot be easily explained by natural law. But it’s fascinating to see the Bible’s words play out repeatedly in our world today.

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