By Marcus Shockley

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (L) and teammate LeBron James wait to leave the stadium after losing the NBA Championship to the Dallas Mavericks in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


Lebron James has been getting advice – almost all of it bad – for his entire life. That’s not uncommon for sports stars, or musicians, or anyone who has a talent that makes them famous and might make them rich. Lebron might have five opinions available in the world for every dollar he earns. But right now, as he lashes out at the media and the fans and still seems convinced that he’s won it all despite not having won a college title or pro title, I’m sure all he’s getting is either people soothing his ego or verbally bashing him as hard as they can.

But if I had Lebron’s ear right now, I would tell him the truth.

I would tell him that this happens to everybody, eventually. You see, when you are a teenager you think you are unstoppable, that you’re going to show everyone how easy it is, and that you’re smarter than everyone else.

Then, life happens. At some point, you realize that no matter how smart you are, or how talented, you’re not invincible, and, believe it or not, there are some pretty talented, savvy people out there who just might be able to take you down.

This, Lebron, is called growing up. It takes longer for big time athletes to ever achieve this, fostered by gushing fans and yes-men, who help you skate through life and tell you that you can do no wrong. Those people aren’t helping you, and eventually, they’ll bail on you.

But, even though it hurts to critic oneself, this is where growing up either goes right or goes wrong. See, when we (all of us, not just you) get slapped around by life and put in our place, we have to decide how to react to it, and how to move forward. We can ignore it, making a subconscious decision to not grow up, and this ends badly. Lives can derail and tank very fast.

Just ask Tiger Woods. He’s trying to decide right now if he wants to grow up or not.

Kobe Bryant faced this decision a few years ago. After years as a spoiled brat who demanded that his center be traded away, he realized that he wasn’t Superman, and asked for real help, got it, and winning a couple more titles.

Kobe grew up.

This is important for you to understand. While most fans think it’s about winning a title, it isn’t. It’s about playing hard non-stop, about working harder than anyone else to achieve something. It’s about talking less and doing more. It’s about doing the hard things, even when we don’t want to. It’s like Dirk and Jason Kidd toiling for years to get a ring, despite coming into the league with loads of talent.

What you shouldn’t do is listen to people like Bob Dorfman, who claims you won’t lose any money over your comments after the finals. You will. Already the sponsors are sniffing around for the next great superstar they can sink all their money into. When Tiger Woods slammed his SUV into a tree in Florida, people were saying he wouldn’t suffer, either. You haven’t hit that kind of skid, but you are, as of today, no longer the guy to watch. You’re the guy who needs someone else to win it for you. I know that stings, but believe me when I say, that sting is felt by all of us, in one way or another, at the moment we grow up. Remember, when you talk about having an amazing life, I would point out that you, like almost everyone else on the planet, still work for someone else. That paycheck is going to go away eventually, despite the fact everyone calls you a businessman.

If you’re going to be one of the great players, here is where you truly show it. By growing up and becoming a man, taking your lumps, and deciding to shut up and really try to win something. I know, I know, the scrutiny of millions of fans is incredible and ridiculous. You’re right about that. But you also invited that scrutiny, so you really can’t throw stones now. You need to learn from your mistakes. Some players do. Many don’t.