The Diocese of Cleveland is now the diocese of champions.  In late June, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers did the seemingly impossible and came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, giving the city its first championship in fifty-two years. Over one million people came out to celebrate the victory a few days later, and my home diocese, which includes the great city of Akron and its suburbs, continues to beam with joy.

A month has now passed and perhaps the time is right to look to Mr. James for some important basketball lessons that translate to lessons for good Catholic living. 

1. Use the gifts that God gave you.

The LORD gave LeBron James rare athletic gifts and he used them to bring a championship to Cleveland. Everyone is gifted at something.  Figure out what you are good at and glorify God by doing it well.

2. Learn from others.

When LeBron left for the Miami Heat, he did so to learn how to win. Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade taught him how to be a champion and LeBron brought all that knowledge and experience back to Cleveland. Who are your mentors, guides and role models? What have they taught you?

3. Be willing to reconcile

LeBron James and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert are not the best of friends, but they knew that they needed to reconcile in order to make good things happen for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Most of us have people in our lives that we don’t like, but can we choose to work with them anyway for the sake of the common good?

4. Don’t forget your roots

LeBron is from Akron, Ohio.  Everyone knows it. He graduated from St. Vincent St. Mary Catholic High School in 2003 and reminds people that he’s “just a kid from Akron” whenever he can.  Take pride in your hometown and give back whenever and however you can. 

5. Take care of yourself so that you can give of yourself

LeBron James takes care of his body by getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, and taking time for rest and leisure. How do you take care of your body? Do you treat it as a temple of the Holy Spirit, as a place where God dwells?

6. Be a star at your role

LeBron’s teammate Tristan Thompson quoted this lesson constantly throughout the Finals.  Don’t compare yourself to others; know your role and play it well.

7. Don’t be afraid to cry

When the Cavs won the NBA Championship, LeBron cried.  Some men think crying is a sign of weakness. False. Crying is for champions. Your emotions are not the enemy.  

8. Family first

LeBron has three championship rings, but his most important ring is his wedding ring.  LeBron speaks lovingly of his wife and three children every chance he gets.  Never let work take priority over family.  

9. Keep your word

When LeBron came home, he said that he would bring a championship to Cleveland.  He kept his word.  If you make a promise, keep it.

10. Celebrate Blessings

1.3 million people came out for the Cavaliers victory parade. When blessings come your way, celebrate them and praise God for them.

Is LeBron James a saint?  Probably not.  But he is a great basketball player and a good man.  As St. Paul tells us, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  (Phillipians 4:8)  Mr. James has given us some things to think about, indeed.