Sportsmanship at its finest

Last night, my husband fell asleep on the couch. That’s not new, it was a Sunday night and neither of us had to work today. Plus, he had stretched out horizontally and covered up with a fleece blanket, falling asleep was inevitable. It was then that I commandeered the t.v. remote and settled on watching the last several minutes of the NBA East finals, or whatever it’s called. All I know is that it was game 7 and the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the Boston Celtics. Game 7, of course, being the game that decides who moves on to whatever level of competition is next. Clearly, I don’t watch much basketball, but I put it on because I wasn’t all that interested in t.v. I wanted something that was background noise while I knit.

I don’t generally put games on if it’s a team that I don’t know anything about. I grew up in a town just outside of Atlanta, so I’m a huge Braves baseball fan. However, I’m also originally from Cleveland, all of my family live up there, so in the absence of a Braves game, depending on what sports season it is, I’ll watch a Cleveland Indians baseball game, or in this case a Cavaliers basketball game. Just the mention of the Cavaliers demands a mention of their star player, Lebron James. I don’t know much about Lebron, I really don’t. In fact, my opinion of him is sort of negative based on the fact that I was in Cleveland the summer that the whole city was on pins and needles waiting for him to announce his decision to either stay playing for the Miami Heat or come back to the Cavaliers. Every time the news was on the t.v. at my mother’s house there was coverage of Lebron James and the possibility of him coming back. Every…single…time. Seriously. I was even there the day that he made it official, King James returns! Whatever. I rolled my eyes so hard that day and even took a picture of the t.v. and the ridiculous banner that was displayed across it.

Obviously, his return to the Cleveland basketball team meant something more to the city than what I could glean just from being there for a week and a half. And I don’t live there now to see what it means for all of the championships he’s won for the city. All of this hype for an athlete made me think that he must be a typical arrogant athlete that thinks he’s greater than he really is and only cares about the millions of dollars he earns to play a sport.

But last night, when I watched the end of that game, my attitude about him changed. He could still potentially be the typical arrogant athlete, but I really don’t think so now. When the last seconds ticked off the clock and it was clear that the Cavaliers had won the championship, on the Celtics court no less, Lebron didn’t get carried away with cheering and high fiving his teammates. There were cameras and reporters and a whole crowd of people surrounding him on the court, but the first thing he did was go to one of the Celtics players and embrace him in a hug. He said something in the player’s ear as he hugged him. Then with a pat on the back, he let go and again, cameras and reporters surrounded him. But he didn’t talk to the reporters, he pushed through them and went to another Celtics player that was on the court and did the same thing, hugged him and said something in his ear. Lebron repeated this at least five times, for as many Celtics players that were still on the court. Only after he hugged each player did he stop and talk to a reporter. As a teacher who coaches a team of kids, granted, not athletes, but a Battle of the Books team that competes every year, I drill into those kids’ heads that whether we win or we lose we are good sports and we go to each of those kids on the other two teams and either congratulate them on winning or telling them that they played a good ‘game’.

So seeing this super star athlete who has just won yet another championship care more about showing good sportsmanship to the team he just defeated than boasting of his victory, that really touched me. Someone who does that has character and integrity. And now, as of last night, also has a fan in me.

Go Cavaliers!

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