By Elder Gerald DeForest Tyler
To be a great leader and finisher in professional sports competition as well as in other professions and various walks of life, one must possess these three character traits: “Integrity, Guts, and Grit.” Merely having knowledge, skills, and abilities is not entirely a complete package for continuous success at the highest level in and of itself. These must be coupled with integrity, guts, and grit for one to be a great leader and finisher on a sustaining basis. Though there have been many good talented and skilled athletes who achieved greatness in life, all of them did not possess genuine integrity, guts, and grit.
Allow me to name just a few who I believe reached the very top of the pinnacle in the National Basketball Association (NBA) due in great part to their God-given talent and skillful abilities: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Larry Bird. However, these superstar athletes didn’t achieve all that they did by their basketball knowledge, skills, and athletic prowess alone – they also possessed and displayed the character traits of “Integrity, Guts, and Grit” on the basketball court.
Each of these men could be trusted and depended upon by their coaches and teammates to “step-up big-time” as team leaders during games in general; but most especially so down the stretch in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. They proved time and time again throughout their playing careers that they were consistent team leaders and great finishers in the final minutes and decisive moments of fourth quarter games. As for me personally, the jury is still out in this regard pursuant to the basketball integrity, guts, and grit level of LeBron James.
While like most others who follow professional basketball, I concur that James is most definitely a great player – no question about that. However, and with that said though, I’m simply not at the point of proclaiming him the greatest basketball player of all time – nor the best current player on planet Earth today. Most people seem to think and declare that he is. Well, I ain’t mad at them! Why LeBron even proclaims himself to be the best player in the world today. And I ain’t mad at him either! I just haven’t yet reached that level of agreement. I’m still waiting to witness his display of integrity, guts, and grit down the stretch in closing out big games consistently in the fourth quarter.
There have been some great basketball players during the history of the NBA including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, and many others in addition to the previous four that I named earlier in this column. Personally, I’m just not ready to crown LeBron James as the all-time king of professional basketball – period! The aforementioned players tended to leave their all on the court during big games without relying on game officials to bail them out during difficult moments by calling numerous fouls against opposing players that no one else saw. They were team leaders and fourth quarter finishers who wanted the basketball in their hands going down the stretch to win games – and that was without being favored by the officials as LeBron is.
Would the Cleveland Cavaliers have won this year’s NBA title against the Golden State Warriors with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in the line-up? Maybe – maybe not. If so, would that have sanctioned LeBron as the world’s best player? Maybe – maybe not. He may very well be the current best player as it is, but is he the absolute best “all-around” player on the planet? As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out and has not yet rendered its decision from the “all-around” perspective. Incidentally, Golden State’s Klay Thompson says that his teammate Stephen Curry is the best player in the world and there may be very well be others who agree with him.
I think the difference between LeBron and other great players like Magic, Kobe, Michael, and Larry is that they were “all-around” players who possessed a higher degree or level of “Integrity, Guts, and Grit” to takeover during big games late in the fourth quarter and lead their teams to victory. They actually wanted the basketball in their hands during the final moments and wouldn’t hesitate when it came to taking the game-winning or losing shots. They were truly “all-around players who functioned as team leaders and game finishers” – and that is precisely what separates them from LeBron James as being in the most-upper echelon of super great players of all time! “Grace and mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied!”
Gerald D. Tyler, an ordained elder with senior pastoral experience, has been a God-called practicing minister since 1977 teaching and preaching the salvation gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.