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LeBron James and Galen Rupp

June 23, 2012

It is currently common American practice to ‘hate greatness’ and criticize the best at what they do. With regard to sport, people tend to detest the Lakers, Yankees, Red Sox, Lance Armstrong, etc. Instead of putting down, criticizing, and rolling my eyes at the truly great, I wanted to briefly highlight two tremendous American athletes.

The first is LeBron James who was given (by the media and his sponsors, and not by himself) the title of ‘The Chosen One’… destined to become the next Michael Jordan. This ‘anointing’ happened when LeBron was only 15 years old. Mix the pressure of having this title thrown on you as a teenager with hundreds of millions of dollars and it would be easy for LeBron to have fallen off the rails and not live up to the hype and pressure. Instead, he has become the greatest basketball player in the world and one of the top-5 players of all time. He just won his first NBA championship and has done so (with 1 small exception) with humility and poise. Congratulations to him. LeBron is a ‘good-guy’, not a villain, and we should be applauding him as a true success story, as it is not that common that people live up to the hype. Clearly, good people surround him. Congratulations LeBron.

The other athlete is Galen Rupp. Though less famous, Rupp has found himself in the exact same position as LeBron. Galen Rupp is now (arguably) the greatest American-born distance runner ever. He holds the US 10km track record in the 26:40s and has a sub 13:00-minute PR in the 5km on the track. Over the past two days, the 26 year old Rupp won the 10km at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, OR and will be heading to London this summer to compete in the Olympic Games. Rupp has been dubbed ‘spoiled’, ‘coddled’, and ‘not tough.’ Others think he is over-analytical and has been given too much star treatment by Nike and his coach Alberto Salazar. Salazar started coaching Rupp as a young teenager, and has done so for the past 12 years (or so). As a high-school athlete, like LeBron, Galen was lauded as the next great American hope for USA distance running. SO MANY great high school runners end up fried, burned out, and unable to endure. Many cannot live up to the expectations or their talent for innumerable reasons. Not Rupp. Rupp has continued to march forward; charting his own course and never letting the critics and naysayers get to him. He is an inspiration and another true American athletic success story.

Both LeBron James and Galen Rupp are obviously incredibly talented, gifted, and to some extent created to do what they do. This is inarguable, however, many people are incredibly talented, gifted, and created for something big, but they cannot seem to succeed. Labeled as teenagers and scrutinized since ninth-grade, these two guys have persevered, endured, not listened to the critics, surrounded themselves with great people, and kept working extremely hard. Root for the underdog? No, not me. I’ll root for true greatness. (Edit: Thanks to Gael for pointing this out. I should say that I do root for the underdog as well) (My main point in this whole thing though is that I won’t root against people just because they are already the best at what they do)(This seems to be standard American practice currently) I’ll root for LeBron James and Galen Rupp. Thanks for showing us how it’s done guys. Keep charging.

  1. June 24, 2012 2:38 PM

    Duncan, I have to argue with you on one point, I don’t argue your rooting for greatness, but rather, you made the statement that you don’t root for the underdog. I respectfully disagree with you with evidence. Being an underdog myself, I’ve always appreciated the support you’ve shown me:-) Thank you for sharing this article.

  2. June 24, 2012 2:41 PM

    Good point Gael. I still do root for the underdog. I will add in an editor’s note. Thanks!

  3. July 15, 2012 11:43 AM

    Duncan, I love this article. As a teacher I see every day how impressionable kids in the 15 and under age range are. It is amazing that Lebron and Rupp didn’t swell to egotistic nightmares given the praise they were given at such early ages. Props to them for finding success through utilizing there great talents.

  4. June 21, 2013 3:28 PM

    Reblogged this on Strategic Endurance and commented:

    Thought I’d re-blog this post from a year ago. Congratulations for Lebron James and the Miami Heat. He’s lived up to the hype that has surrounded him. Also last night – Galen Rupp won his 5th consecutive National Championship in the 10km on the track. Congratulations to him for living up to the hype. Watching greatness is inspiring.

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