This is another random sports post, but one that I’ve been thinking about for some time.
In short, I think Dwight Howard and Lebron James were interesting examples of the Millennial Generation during their free agency. Obviously it’s tough to characterize an entire generation, but I thought these guys in particular, largely because of their public platforms and stories, can be looked at as examples of Millennials.
First, I’ll give a brief synopsis of each player, and then I’ll talk about characteristics they’ve displayed as Millennials.
*FYI I root for both players. I absolutely love Lebron and I love the Rockets (haven’t followed Dwight for as long).
1. Dwight Howard – Dwight’s journey is well-chronicled from his rise to dominance with the Orlando Magic to his acrimonious exit via trade to the LA Lakers, to his difficult year in Los Angeles, to his eventual landing in Houston as a free agent. Through his journey, he’s been criticized harshly for waffling in his decision-making and his inability to play under the bright lights in LA.
I for one, am glad that he plays for the Houston Rockets now, because I think he’s a better fit for the team and they have a better shot at winning a championship.
2. Lebron James – Lebron is the best basketball player in the world, and arguably one of the best players ever. Lebron’s story is also well-chronicled, and he’s won the League MVP and NBA Championship two consecutive years.
Lebron has come a long way in rebuilding his image after he left Cleveland as a free agent in regrettable fashion. No one argues with his decision at this point considering the outcomes – just the way it was handled.
Lebron is one of my favorite players, and I’m seriously rooting for him to become the best of all-time (sorry Chicagoans).
How Dwight & Lebron Exemplify Millennials:
Much of his wavering decision-making had to do with trying to make others happy – Orlando, Laker fans, etc. When he chose the Rockets, he finally made up his mind to choose 1) winning, and 2) his own happiness.
It’s interesting that he stresses the happiness part because it was clear to most folks that Houston gave him the best chance to win titles over the next few years, signaling that it was winning that was the chief decision-making factor.
However, there’s something about the happiness statement that resonates with Millennials, and I think that’s why he uses it (he himself is a Millennial), I think.
There’s this epic post that describes the mindset of most Millennials, particularly the feelings of entitlement and the search for happiness. It’s this idea that we deserve to be happy.
However, as the blog post skillfully points out, our entitled views of happiness often lead us toward becoming unhappy, unless we modify expectations.
I hope Dwight modifies expectations and then leads the Rockets to a championship, which would make me really happy.
2. “I Want to Play With My Friends” – People ripped Lebron for “joining Wade’s team” and not being an alpha-dog in his free agency, but I thought it was ironic that for someone who was being ripped as being arrogant and selfish, Lebron was 1) taking a pay cut, and 2) virtually admitting that he can’t do it on his own.
If anything, Lebron should have been applauded for humbling himself by joining the Heat!
Okay, “humbling” might be too strong a word, because his decision was also based on 1) winning, and 2) playing with his friends.
Anyhow, what I love about Lebron is how his teammates love playing with him. It’s clear that Lebron relishes being a teammate on a team.
I think Millennials are similar in this way – they would rather play with their friends to accomplish goals.
In church world, the rise of networks and city-wide movements have really resonated for Millennials because of this teamwork dynamic. I think most Millennials really believe that we’re better together.
3. Above All, We Want to Win – It’d be nice to be happy and it’d be nice to play with my friends, but I think Millennials are also committed to leaving a legacy that will remain.
Dwight and Lebron understand this, hence both of them approached free agency looking for the best chance to win.
For Dwight, people said he couldn’t handle the bright lights of LA, but realistically, the Lakers would have been a really tough roster for him to win with. I don’t think it’s fair to pile on Dwight about leaving LA or spurning the Mavs or Warriors (although the W’s look real good right now) for choosing Houston.
For Lebron, it’s clear he made the right choice about where to play because the Heat have won the championship two out of the last three years.
I love the idealism of Millennials that want to make history, and I think Dwight and Lebron both have that.
They both realized the bottom line was winning, and whatever people want to say about either of them, they both chose the best path toward winning.
In sum, I’m not sure if I’m a Millennial, but I hope that I can be marked as someone who 1) Works Hard Without Feeling Entitled to Happiness, 2) Gets to Work with My Friends, and 3) Is Crazy Enough to Think that I Can Leave a Legacy that Lasts.