It starts at a young age. In order to become the multimillionaire ultra famous athlete, you have to go through years of training and experience with ups and downs.
And then most of them won’t make it to the elite status that they aspire to.
That begs the question; what is the greatest attribute an athlete can harness when playing sports?
Consider the paths of two of the great NBA players of all time; Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Both went to the biggest stage straight out of high school.
Both were considered to be a once in a generation type of player — James more so. But Bryant barely saw the court in his rookie season and only managed to average 7.6 points per game on 41.7 percent shooting.
It was in the playoffs that Bryant showed his timid demeanor, famously air-balling four crunch-time jumpers in the playoff series with the Utah Jazz. Ending his rookie year on such a sour note, it was worrisome that the pressure of the NBA was too great.
James, on the other hand, overcame the professional pressure to outperform in his first year, averaging 20.9 points, 5.9 assists,and 5.5 rebounds in his first year and showed signs that he was a legitimate superstar.
When were they really tested though?
For Bryant, his test came the night that he air-balled those four jumpers and effectively lost the game for his Los Angeles Lakers. In his Showtime documentary, Muse, Bryant claims he went to Palisades High School that night and found someone to open the gym doors so he could practice his jump shot all day – and he said all day.
He repeated that routine every day for six months. Overcoming his poor rookie year, Bryant went on to win five NBA Championships, became an 18-time All-Star and is number three on the all-time scoring leaders list. That is the definition of resilience, a necessary character trait if you want to be the best.
James’ true test of resiliency came much later than Bryant’s. James was the hometown kid from Akron, Ohio who quickly became the young superstar for the Cleveland Cavaliers that everyone hoped he would be, earning him the title “King James.”
Although he went to the NBA Finals in 2008 and the Conference Finals in 2010, James knew he’d need to put a band together in free agency in order to accomplish the ultimate goal of winning a championship. So he packed his bags and headed to South Beach because he knew he’d never get it done in Cleveland by himself.
Naturally, Cleveland vilified their homegrown superstar but he didn’t care and actually embraced his new perception. And to make it worse, James arrogantly boasted in The Heat’s introduction of The Big Three, which included Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, that they would win, “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…”NBA championships.
It was done in the same vein as a cheating ex bragging about their newer, much better, relationship.
But James’ first year had some rough patches, causing many critics to doubt whether he actually had the clutch gene. His 4th quarter performances were abysmal all season long, but it was especially a problem during The Finals in the 2010-11 season when they lost to the Dallas Mavericks.
James received the brunt of the loss when he averaged only 3 points in fourth quarters of the series. Maybe this was “The King’s” ceiling? And Cleveland fans relished in his failure.
So what did LeBron James do? How did he handle it? Instead of crumbling, James followed that Finals performance up with back-to-back championships.
Resiliency is the true test that defines the greatness of a person’s potential and it’s a measure that’s simply immeasurable. It’s like a million people screaming how terrible you are and proving them wrong after a period of patience – waiting for redemption.
Now, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James may be two of the most polarizing sports’ figures in the history of American sports. In their primes, you either love or love to hate them. But that only exists because of their dominance and that wouldn’t have been possible without the power of resilience.
There are thousands of athletes you’ve never heard of because when facing adversity, they simply gave up. Resiliency is why Bryant and James’ legacies will be immortalized.