If you had a credential around your neck and were standing in the visiting locker room at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon, you were a pylon.
You were a pylon because Dwyane Wade needed you to be.
Before the Miami Heat methodically took down the Toronto Raptors in the fourth quarter of a 100-85 victory and before they took over the arena’s adjoining Real Sports Bar and Grill for a Super Bowl viewing party, they prepared themselves for victory.
LeBron James stretched out on his stomach in front of his locker —one of two solo lockers generally reserved for the star of the team or a big man— as Wade, resistance bands around his ankles, weaved through reporters and around his teammate while dribbling the length of the cramped locker room.
The first thing to greet you upon stepping into the Heat locker room was James’ booming growl of a voice.
“Red hat, black chucks, black 501’s on, that’s your baby mama, but her number’s in my iPhone.”
Rapping along empathically to Wiz Khalifa’s “Cabin Fever” playing on his own personal Beats By Dre speaker system with an iPod Classic attached to it, James head bobbed and pounded on the floor with his fist in rhythm as a trainer worked on his legs and feet.
Unlike most superstars who are getting prepared and trying to get in their zone, James doesn’t shut you out.
He does the exact opposite.
Shouting out small talk to his teammates, making them crack up into laugher, clowning on everyone sitting in their lockers, he will look around the room, survey his surroundings, make eye contact with you, nodding to acknowledge your presence.
After watching his first hockey game in the same arena the night before, he joked to no one in particular that if he had suited up rather than watching, the Maple Leafs would have won 2-1 rather than losing to the Boston Bruins 1-0.
He commented on needing his music to get up for a 2 p.m. start and repeatedly scrolled back to the beginning of “Cabin Fever.”
Between James doing his best Khalifa impersonation, Wade lunging, stretching and dribbling his way around the room, Ray Allen and Bosh appearing from the shower area just long enough to drop books off to their respective lockers and Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen on the floor by his corner locker doing ab work, there was both a lot and nothing happening at the same time.
The delightful juxtaposition between the extraordinary talent in the room and —outside of Wade— their overly ordinary pre-game habits made it damn near impossible to leave the Heat locker room during the pre-game media availability session.
With three All-Stars in James, Wade and Bosh, there isn’t much that is understated about the Heat. Even their accessories are over the top.
The small, zippered bag that each player has to keep jewellery and other valuables safe has their face screen-printed onto the front.
In lieu of the traditional table filled with fresh fruit, energy bars and mints —loaves of bread with peanut butter and jelly whenever the Celtics come through— in the middle of the locker room, the Heat instead have empty space for Wade and James to stretch out and then get stretched out by trainers before tip off.
Former Raptors All-Star and big man Chris Bosh was sandwiched between Shane Battier’s locker and the entrance to the shower area, the most spacious lockers in the room reserved for the Heat’s two biggest stars.
These are the sacrifices of playing with two Finals MVP’s.
Catch a glimpse of the championship rings earned last June or listen to Wade talking about the team’s recent visit to the White House and it feels like a relatively minuscule price to pay.
There was something satisfying about Wade’s pre-game preparation. A reminder that greatness is not something that happens by accident. After the game he would say that his normal routine is not as elaborate, that it was the 2 o’clock tip-off time that required the extra work to get ready. The important takeaway was that he recognized what he needed to do and he did it. Euro-stepping between a pair of black shoes impeding his path and refusing to allow reporters or space constraints to get in his way, he went about his business.
Shortly before media availability ended on Sunday afternoon, James stood in front of the mirror in the adjoining room connected to the locker room. Looking at himself squarely in the mirror, he adjusted his headband until it was perfectly in place, NBA logo lining up with the center of his forehead.
Bounding back to his locker, he scooped up his iPod from the floor and, once more, scrolled to his song of the day.
As the media began to silently file out of the locker room to give the team their opportunity to focus for tip off, now just 45 minutes away, his voice echoed down the hall.
“Red hat, black chucks, black 501’s on, that’s your baby mama, but her number’s in my iPhone.”
I’m a firm believer in energy. I believe the energy you place in the atmosphere is the energy you’ll receive. This morning I felt some special energy. I’m not sure who it’s from or where it’s coming from, but it was so strong it woke me up this Christmas morning and made me jump on Tumblr. I hope this reaches the person(s) it’s intended for.
Those of you who know me, also know my story. However, I’ll give you a brief on the last couple of months and how I handled each situation. When I got back from Italy after the lockout year, I was a unrestricted free agent. Teams were afraid to sign me. Not because I lacked skill, but because I developed a reputation for having a bad attitude. Early in my career I was very immature. I handled a lot of situations the wrong way. I simply didn’t know how to be a professional, but it was never in a harmful way. I was just young. I owned it though. I took responsibility for my past. Because of that, I matured. I could’ve pointed the finger and used excuses as a crutch, but I didn’t. I knew I was an NBA player. I knew I belonged, but I also knew my road back was going to be rocky.
Last summer I woke up stressed out damn near every morning. Some days were better than others, but most were bad. I knew I had the game, but going into the last week before training camp, I was still without a team. Even through all the uncertainty, my faith still outweighed my fear. I continued to release positive energy into the atmosphere….then out of no where, the Lakers called. They wanted me to come in and earn a spot. Once I got that call, it was made up in my mind that I’d be a Laker. I knew I was going to go in there and showcase my talent. Which I did. The very first day I was 1 on 1 partners with Kobe. And we were going at it. Shit talking…elbows were thrown. To my surprise, after that first practice Kobe went to media and spoke highly of me. Everyday I played well and practiced well. Kobe continued to mentor me along the way. The Laker fans embraced me. I just knew I was in. Then I got a call from Leon (my agent) saying they were going to let me go. They told me I played great. The numbers on the business side just wouldn’t work. It was one of the worst phone calls I’ve ever gotten, but I was at peace because I knew I played my ass off. I brought it every day. My motto is “control what you can control” and I did that. That didn’t matter though. Once it got released that the Lakers let me go, the people thought it was due to my game. People had jokes. People wrote me off. It was embarrassing. However, I took positives away from my month with the Lakers too. I developed a relationship with Kobe Bryant. He showed me how to be a pro. He showed me real work ethic. Playing against him everyday made me so much of a better player. He understood me. He understood that its a difference in having a bad attitude and being competitive and wanting to win every drill/game. One night after a game and we were in the showers and he told me “you have no other choice. You were put here to be basketball player. You have to fight until you’re one of them boys. You’re too talented. I played behind mfers that I was better than up until my third year but I KNEW I would be who I am today then. I work too hard not to break through.” That stuck with me. So I appreciate the opportunity the Lakers gave me. I looked at that month with the Lakers as an internship under Bean. I gained knowledge that I couldn’t have gotten any other way. That’s what I took from that situation. It’s all about how you respond when times are rough.
At this point, I had two avenues to take. Go to the D-League, or go overseas. My heart and my dreams were in the NBA. Even though I never thought I’d ever play in the D-League, I felt that was the fastest way back to the NBA. This is where my faith had to outweigh my fear. I turned down seven figures overseas to follow my heart. When your passionate about your craft, the money doesn’t matter. I humbled myself and signed with the Dallas Mavericks D-League affiliate. Instead of complaining about not being in the NBA. I made up in my mind that I was going to be the best player in the D-League. Vowed not to take a day off. I was on a mission. The first game I scored 50 points. I wanted to dominate the competition. I wanted to erase all doubts. Every game I wanted to destroy the competition. Every game I came in with a killer mindset. I played 10 games in the D-League with that singular focus and just like that, I was back where I belonged. I signed with the Dallas Mavericks three days ago. I’m so proud to be a part of Mavs nation.
All that to say, I know it’s a cliché, but don’t ever give up. The fight is only over if you make up in your mind that it’s over. Your mind and your heart knows what your soul yearns for. You never know how close you are to breaking through at the moment you give up. You can be right there. Your confidence and faith has to be stronger than your fear and uncertainty. Every success story has failure along the way. Every great man or women has failed at least one time on their journey to greatness. It’s a part of the journey. Every time you fail, it’s a lesson that you’re suppose to take from it. It’s on you though. An excuse is your worst enemy. Excuses are used by incompetent people. Take control of your life. When shit is going terribly, you always have two choices: 1. pity yourself and blame others or 2. find the POSITIVE lesson from it and thug it out until you reach your ultimate goal.
this is beautiful. so happy for CDR.
- blood orange/dev hynes/solange