Four years ago in an ill-conceived ESPN special called The Decision, LeBron James uttered the now infamous words, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.“ James, born and raised in Akron, Ohio, was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. He played with the Cavaliers for seven years and breathed new life into the franchise before becoming a free agent on July 1, 2010.
Now, to quote Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Dwain Price, sportswriter at the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram said, “You’ve got to give it to LeBron James. The man is a shrewd businessman and probably is a very good poker player. When the feeling hits him, James can probably pick up his phone and get some expert financial advice from billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, with whom he once had dinner. That’s high-rolling of the highest order. So, when Tuesday (June 24) rolled around and James informed the Miami Heat he was going to exercise his early termination option and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, you can bet it was a moment well thought out.”1
LeBron was scheduled to make $20.5 million next year and $22.1 million the following season. He said his goal is to “win championships,” and believes free agency gives him the opportunity to see which NBA team gives him the best chance to do that. Pat Riley, President of the Miami Heat, fired a warning shot on Thursday prior to LeBron’s announcement where he urged LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to “stay together, if you’ve got the guts.”2
James is a four-time MVP, prolific scorer and all around great basketball player. Teams have already begun lining up to secure his services; like the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, even the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rumor has it the Dallas Mavericks have shown interest. And who could blame them? A player with LeBron’s talents and abilities would be the envy of virtually the entire league. But do STARS win championships or TEAMS?
Michael Jordan was a superstar but was also on a great team with the Chicago Bulls. Magic Johnson was another star who played for years on a great team, the Lakers. The Miami Heat, known for their “stars” were just beaten by the San Antonio Spurs. Considered by many to be one of the greatest teams of all time, the Spurs are led by Tim Duncan, who has played his entire career there (17 seasons). Tony Parker, who has played his entire career there (15 seasons). Manu Ginobili, who has played there for 12 seasons, and their coach, Greg Popovich, who has been there for 18 years. The Spurs have won 20 division titles, made the playoffs in 24 of the last 25 seasons, have the most consecutive 50+ win seasons and have won 5 NBA championships, fourth most in history behind the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls.
There’s something to be said for staying, hanging in there, and being a viable contributor to a great team over a long period of time.
A similar thing happens in churches. Every once in a while you’ll hear of a church member who wants to “opt out” and “take their talents” somewhere else. If they’re musically inclined they’re looking for more opportunities to bless more people with their talent. If they’re a teacher, they want to broaden their horizons and have more opportunities to share their “gift.” Some just say, “I’m not being fed here.” Which is churchspeak for “I’m not getting enough playing time,” or “I want my face on the Jumbotron more.” Any way you figure it doesn’t add up.
They say it’s all about “building the Kingdom” (i.e. winning championships) but the reality is, it’s not God’s kingdom they want to build. You don’t build God’s kingdom jumping from church to church. Even USA TODAY said this about LeBron, “If James were to leave Miami, he would risk becoming known as a player – in the short term – who jumped from team to team in search of a championship.”3
Instead of opting for free agency, why not focus on being the best team player your church ever had? Why not go all in for the long haul and see what God can do through you and others as you commit yourself to Christ, His Church and each other. There’s something to be said for staying, hanging in there, and being a viable contributor to a great church over a long period of time.
Whether it’s the NBA or your local church, the stats don’t back the stars.
© 2014. Barry L. Cameron
1 Dwain Price, "LeBron has all the power after opt-out," Ft. Worth Star-Telegram 25 June 2014: Sec. C, 1.
2 Jeff Zillgitt. "What LeBron Option Out Really Means," USA TODAY Sports, 25 June 2014: Sec. C, 1.
3 Jeff Zillgitt. "What LeBron Option Out Really Means," USA TODAY Sports, 25 June 2014: Sec. C, 5.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.