In the film
What is it in athletic performance that signifies iconic greatness?
America loves winners, and ultimate greatness is conferred on players who perform dramatically in winning a championship. Whether it is a high school, collegiate or professional team and whether it is a league championship, a state championship, the
Consider the curious case of
When he left the
But in last year's championship series he underperformed and the Heat lost to the
"LeBron can't win the Big One!."
Until this year when he completely controlled the
There were other issues with LeBron. Fans resented his designing a free-agent winning package in Miami. There was serious criticism of his circus-like televised press conference when his home city of Cleveland (Akron) learned for the first time he was leaving and signing with Miami. Some fans felt he was arrogant and immature. But the past was washed away over the course of the final series and James is now the wunderkind of the NBA. Expect non-stop endorsements and exposure.
I was with Troy when the
Steve Young finally emerged from the shadow of Joe Montana in 1994 when he threw six touchdowns and led the
In our hypercompetitive sports environment can a player be recognized as great even if he doesn't lead a team to a championship?
At the professional level, players are assigned to their teams via a draft. The most promising players go to the teams with the worst records who are high in draft position. A player can't recruit his teammates. He can't scout and sign and develop talent. He can't control the coaching.
Does statistical dominance or selection to all-star games factor in?
Shouldn't we broaden the definition of greatness and recognize brilliant heart and performance that doesn't result in a championship?
Are we dispiriting thousands of athletes who are also winners?
There are players throughout sports who have absolutely brilliant careers without winning a championship. There are teams that are incredible, but stuck in a conference or division with the best team in sports.
Finishing in the top third of a sport might also define greatness. When AYSO soccer players feel that they are a failure at age 10 because their team didn't win the championship, the winner-take-all mentality has gone too far.