Get Better Series: The Biggest Winners Learn From Losing

When the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship at the end of last week, sports fans saw LeBron James in a new light.

[Editor's note: Monday's post is written by Jared Ziedman, executive editor of TakeOverTheGame.com.]

When the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship at the end of last week, sports fans saw LeBron James in a new light. James has become one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet, due not only to his tremendous play, but also the determination and ferocity with which he plays. But when the MVP of the NBA Playoffs was handed the Larry O’Brien Trophy early Friday morning, he looked far from ferocious.

He looked relieved.

James held the trophy out in front of him, smiled, and said “wow,” before hugging the NBA Championship to his chest. And that smile wasn’t the kind you often see when greeting a friend. It’s the kind of smile you make when you have worked as hard as you could to achieve something, and your hard work finally paid off.

LeBron James would know a thing or two about this. In 2007, he lost in the NBA finals to the San Antonio Spurs as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, due largely to a tremendous series from Tony Parker. Last year, he lost in the NBA finals again, this time to the Dallas Mavericks, due largely to a tremendous series from Dirk Nowitzki.

Each loss can get more and more frustrating, especially when you end up on the losing end even though you know that you have improved. But a loss taken alone has no value. The most important, and often most overlooked element of losing is that there is always a reason why you lose. That reason must be explored and addressed in order to win.

During last year’s finals, James attempted significantly less shots than he normally takes, and appeared rattled near the tail end of the series. This was perhaps the most drastic change in this year’s finals, when James attacked the basket with reckless abandon late in games against the Thunder, and additionally elected to take more shots, including the difficult ones. James’ fierce play led the Heat to the franchise’s second NBA Championship.

In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, James discussed his changed mentality, chalking it up to losing it in the past. “It comes from experience,” said James. “When you fall and you fail so many times, you kind of just look yourself in the mirror and say what are you going to do about it? You have all these other people around you, and yes it’s a team game, and yes everything has to fall into place with the team; but what are you going to do to help things become different? I did that a lot.”

We like sports because sports teach us valuable life lessons. Here’s one of them.  You’re going to lose, and you’re going to lose more than you probably want to. But in life, the L column is more important than the W column, because it leads to the W column. Winning is the application of the lessons you learned from losing; and winning feels better when you can reflect on how much it took to get there. If you want to be the next “King James,” listen to his message.

“What are you going to do about it?”

The North Shore Athletics Club and the writers at TakeoverTheGame.com will publish exclusive columns each week. The series of columns (which will be titled the “Get Better Series”) will encourage and motivate young athletes, while also aiming to teach both tangible sports skills and well as intangible life lessons.


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