From Boy To Man

By Ron Ciancutti

He had to leave in order to come back and win.  He had to go out there to Miami with the scrutiny and the hate in his rearview mirror and pretend he didn’t hear the volume of it all.  He watched them burn his jersey and yank down his posters.  He heard the former pros wreck his name and speak poorly about abandoning his hometown.  He made the mistake of answering freely, when asked about how many championships he might stockpile there in the city where he “took his talents,” by joking with his ring-less digits 1, 2, 3 maybe more….. ha ha ha.

And he won 2 of the 4 times he got to the championship rounds.  And we watched him hoist the trophy and some hated him for it and others understood all great players want to win the big game and said, “you can’t blame the kid.”  But way down deep as he smiled and performed and bought things and stacked trophies – it wasn’t enough.

And despite the looming Lucifer-like temptation image imposed by Pat Riley, he stared down his demons and told Cleveland in a heartfelt letter: “I’m coming home.”

He said it again in Oakland after beating all the odds and delivering Cleveland from its championship deprived psyche, “I just can’t wait to get home and share this trophy with our fans.  It’s what they deserve.”

The path that was struck more than a decade ago has now come to its eventual destination and this Akron-bred kid delivered his native Cleveland the prize it has so eagerly awaited.

And now it all makes sense.

And now he is forgiven because his departure had purpose.

And now people are talking about the boy that left and the man that came back.

AND HERE’S THE IRONY.  When the Warriors were up 3-1 in this finals series all you heard about was the genius involved in putting this team together.  The outside shooters, the awesome bench players, the fantastic defenders…. There were those saying Cleveland would have to go back to the free-agency market or get real busy in the draft to mount a sufficient attack NEXT YEAR.

And then a gentle breeze blew through the Golden State.  Not a hurricane, not a tornado, a steady controlled, stubborn breeze that wouldn’t die down. Their center got injured, a key man sustained a strained back, a key player jawed too much and played a little dirty and had to sit down during a key game.  And vulnerabilities were shown that hadn’t been visible before.  And the leader, who prides himself on looking like he’d rather be anywhere else than playing basketball lost his cool.  And his wife, who had been complimented in years prior for being so composed and above the fray, started spewing venom at the league, the refs, the “fixed” results of games.  The golden team had to face adversity – something it hadn’t seen all year.

Because you see folks, when you win 73 games in a season you learn how to win but you never catch on how to lose.  And it is that where you build character, poise and self-control.

When I watched Stephen Curry foul out last week and react like a 4 year old on a playground I sat there stunned.  Next his wife, known for her conservative attitude and reserved approach, starts hammering the league for making the game fixed and unfair.  I thought, “….their skin is that thin? They may just lose this thing.”

Now, the morning after the Cavs do what has not been done before the world is questioning the Warriors and their ability to last.  The team that looked invincible LAST WEEK has lost a bit of its sheen.

So despite a record that had never been accomplished before with 73 regular season wins.  Despite a sports-journalist holiday of favorably comparing this Warrior team to the great Laker and Celtic squads of yesteryear.  Despite a unanimous vote for MVP going to Stephen Curry who had made a record breaking 402 – three point shots in a season.  Despite all the previous months oftelling the world that Golden State is the basketball-warrior for the ages, Yahoo Sports now reported the following on the morning (June 20, 2016) following their defeat;

 “Golden State knows that Curry and Thompson will come back firing along with Green next season. However, Bogut is now 31 and it appears likely that he will only decline in the years to come. It is clear that the Warriors cannot count on Ezeli to fill in for Bogut in crunch time and Golden State's patience may have worn to a point  where they do not feel inclined to match the offers he or Barnes receive.  But should the market for that duo cool then the possibility of bringing Ezeli and Barnes back at an affordable rate and maintaining continuity may be a tough one to pass up.  The Warriors' personnel department has received widespread praise for how this team has been put together. Golden State now faces a big decision over whether to keep the faith with Barnes and Ezeli or look elsewhere. What they decide could well have a determining impact on whether Curry and co. are back in the Finals next year.”

Wow, folks, is it really all that fleeting, this thing called success?  Will all those positive stats and footnotes be replaced with the one that matters the most?  Simply put, the Golden State Warriors are the first team in NBA history to lose in the Finals after taking a 3-1 series lead (and maybe, JUST MAYBE, they’re not as good as everyone has been saying).

And more directly to my point is this.  Fame, success, honors, awards, moments of greatness are wonderful but they are FLEETING!  What do you have left in the tank to continue your journey after you have hit the various peaks?

Because that is the takeaway here that no one seems to be picking up on.  LeBron James performance in the 2016 playoffs and finals was a reserved, calm, dead-eye approach keeping everything in perspective.  Now.  Now that it has been won people have the right to be bubbling over with excitement and unabashed joy but see he made sure everyone waited until the whole moment was earned.  Not when they got to the playoffs, not when they won the eastern conference, not when they made it to the finals, not when they won important games in the finals, WHEN THEY WON THE GAME THAT MADE THEM CHAMPIONS, LeBron cut the load loose and wept on the hardwood floor finally surrendering the composure that took them all that way.

He waited. He waited because years before he had jumped.  And now he walks the steps of a man that learned.  Stephen Curry’s shot may only get better with age but until he understands that taking a real shot requires a lot more than a good eye, he’ll just keep shooting.

And anyone can do that.