As an avid NBA fan, I have been radically enjoying this years playoffs. We have the greatest upset story in League history (Memphis Grizzlies), who are arguably playing without their best player, Rudy Gay. We have the arch-enemy Miami Heat, radically dominating both of their series. We are enjoying watch the best two young superstars lead their teams into deeper rounds (Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose). Also, the failures of the Orland Magic has the best big man in the league questioning his position and desire to be with them, as well, the New York Knicks are seeing they’re a few pieces short of competing with the NBA powerhouses. It all creates a good story.But, if all the NBA is, is cheap entertainment, then we fail to see what sports are really teaching us. Sports serve the culture it lives in teachings of radical importance.If we can look beyond the radical commercialism and consumerism that has made College and Professional sports almost as globalized empires rather that the ancient virtuous events that they once were. But, we can still look at the virtues they offer us, excellence, courage and selflessness.
In sports, we learn radical excellence. It is the place where body, mind and will unite. This is what has made athletes like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant beyond exceptional. Not only are they the most gifted amongst their physical abilities, but, Bryant and Jordan, arguably the greatest players in league history, are cerebral assassins. They tear apart their competition with their methodical defensive prowess but also their ability to dissect the offense and make their teammates better. They have willed their team to almost every playoffs. The great social researcher Malcom Gladwell recently did a study on who should be the greatest athlete ever based upon work ethic, intelligence and physical ability, and, they determined it to be Tracy McGrady. But, McGrady has been known to be one of the more confrontational and lazy superstars to ever play. Also, Bryant and Jordan are amongst the most courageous athletes because of their fearless ability to take over games and desire the ball in the last moments.
Courage is something that plays a very important part in sports. Players like Muggsy Bogues (5’3), Earl Boykins (5’5) and Nate Robinson (5’9), have played in the same territory of Yao Ming (7’5), Manute Bol (7’6) and Shaquille O’Neal (7’2). The greatest villain in these playoffs is without a doubt Andrey Bynum after he did this to Six Foot Dallas Mavericks guard J.J Barea –
After the game Bynum said he did this because he got sick of the Maverick driving in the paint. Rather than having the desire and courage to play good defense, he assaulted the defenseless Barea in the air. Also, in these playoffs, people have questioned the courage of league villain Lebron James, who has shied away from being the guy, like Bryant and Jordan, to want the last shot. Lebron James, instead of being the guy like Bryant and Jordan, ran away from Cleveland for the easy exit of Miami where he would be accompanied by fellow stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
However villainous the Miami Heat have become, they potentially have the greatest trait that can be shown to us in these playoffs which is selflessness. When Wade, James and Bosh could have all stayed in their respected cities and become icons, had all of the pull on their teams, and, command all of the attention on the floor, they sacrificed it, learned how to play team ball rather than learning how to be a solo entity. They set their ego’s aside, for the sake of the larger team goal. They put the team ahead of their own self-glorification.
Anyone who has played sports, knows the value it can present to them (as long as they aren’t the ones who were forced to play because their Dad was a High School champion). It teaches us how to push ourselves. It teaches us to do things we normally wouldn’t do, or, do the things we were born to do. It teaches us to form a brotherhood, where we make bonds with those we are in competition with.
And, anyone who watches sports, they know the value of community that sports can bring. It gives birth to friendship and conversation. It allows us to belong to a team. In an already stressful life, it gives us the time to break away from the stresses of the day.