What does LeBron James’ first ring signify? Part 3
This is the third and the last instalment of our LeBron James, myths and archetypes series.Previously, we talked about the significance of the relationship of James and Wade, James’ story,his recovering popularity, and how he compares to Jordan. Let’s roll out!
About James and Kobe
So far Kobe has won 5 rings. If you look purely at numbers, you’d conclude that he is up there with Jordan. But as always, we should look at the storyline, not facts. Kobe’s story is not so compelling for two reasons:
First, let’s agree on one thing: Kobe’s achievements are mind boggling. His endurance, his competitiveness and the fact that he entered the league, as a teenager will always be remembered. And I think, just like LeBron James Kobe is more skilled than Jordan, which again does not mean much. Because, just like James, Kobe’s story is mostly self-serving. Maybe he did not leave the Lakers, but he demanded to be traded, when he could not beat the Suns. Instead of rising up to the challenge, he acted immaturely, elbowing people and refusing to shoot on an elimination game. Prior to that, he wanted to win at all cost. He demanded to be the top dog, forcing Shaquille O’Neal leave Los Angeles. But, in reality his irresponsible gunner attitude was the main reason why Lakers could not beat the Pistons. He also didn’t get along with Phil Jackson and caused him to leave the team, which left the Lakers wounded for a while. All those acts served him, not the Lakers, not the city of Los Angeles and not the NBA. That’s a seriously flawed storyline.
Second, Kobe’s first three rings, as hard earned as they were, will be perceived as less valuable than Jordan’s or James rings. Because he was THE sidekick, and O’Neal was THE hero of that story. At the end of the day, you can’t fake Finals’ MVP Awards and Kobe has 2 of them, not 5. So, Kobe will always be perceived as THE prodigious sidekick for his first three rings and THE hero for his last 2. That is the power of the myth, the beauty of the archetypal story of a hero.
About James haters
LeBron James is a highly criticized athlete. Over the last 5 years, American sportswriters’ favorite pastime activity has been to talk about James’ shortcomings: He can’t close. He is afraid of pressure. He celebrates as if he won.
I must admit, I agreed with such critics. That said, he finally won his first ring, defeated his inner demons, and publicly stated he was immature in the past and that he is glad he did not win the year before. Previously, we analyzed how and why people jumped on James’ bandwagon, the millisecond Heat beat the Thunder. That does not mean there are still bona fide critics out there. For instance, Skip Bayless, who is almost always right, says that “James got a lucky break.” Any rational person, who watched the 2012 Playoffs, would have realized that James was head and shoulders above other players. Bayless and likeminded people are obviously a rational people. So, why do they still hate James? The answer is simple: It is not hatred. Actually, it is a very basic psychological process called “commitment and consistency”. What do we mean by that?
In his perennial book, Influence, Dr. Cialdini explains why we stick to our ideas and act on them, even though we might be perceived as irrational or marginal. Here is how Wikipedia explains it:
If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. For example, in car sales, suddenly raising the price at the last moment works because the buyer has already decided to buy.
So, here is the psychological process that James’ haters went through:
- They rightfully stated that James was not living up to his potential, he was mentally weak, and spoiled by media.
- Their ideas, rightfully got public acceptance, so they started defended their point of views fiercely.
- Every time James failed, or made a colossal mistake such as “the Decision”, they reiterated their point of views, mentally committing to such thoughts, which built their self-image.
- Now that James finally won, the original motivation is removed. Yet, since they made their thoughts public, their point of views are cemented.
- They cannot change their stance easily. If they do so, their mind will suffer from incongruence, which is what psychologists call: cognitive dissonance.
So, what we see as “hatred” is in reality “consistency.” I believe, over time, as James continues winning and paying close attention to his public image, such commitments will loosen up.
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