As humans we sometimes idolize, or admire people we see on TV. Even if the people we admire are playing roles on TV we tend to gravitate to the actor, as well as the character. One thing we always forget is that what we see is not always what we get. We forget those people we’re looking up to are actual human beings with feelings and emotions, so when they can’t or don’t live up to who we think they are it can be a hard pill to swallow.
Growing up I was always a huge basketball fan. I had a huge card collection and could name almost every player on a NBA roster during the 90’s era. I was a true student of the game. One day, earlier in my professional career, I ran into one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA. For the sake of not exposing this NBA great lets call him “John Smith”. I was on the west coast preparing for a NBA workout. As I was heading to the court, walking down this long narrow hallway, I saw this tall figure walking towards me. As the figure got closer I realized it was “John Smith”. I tried not showing it, but I was kind of excited. I wasn’t going to go full fan mode on him, but I knew it was only right for me to pay homage to someone who helped make it possible for me to play the game I love. As we got closer, about ten feet away from each other I said, “Hello Mr. Smith.” He looked me right in my eye and then continued walking. I figured maybe he didn’t hear me, or couldn’t quite understand me because at times I just don’t speak loud. When we got shoulder to shoulder in this narrow hallway, I again said, “Hello Mr.Smith.” This time he gave me cold stare and an eye roll. Shocked and a little upset, the Cleveland in me came out and what I said next wasn’t so nice, but it obviously got his attention. He stopped looked at me, and I stopped and looked at him, he rolled his eyes again and kept walking.
Bothered by what had happened, I told one of my good friends what had happened to me. He laughed and said, “you must didn’t get the memo.” I replied “what memo?” My friend at the time was playing within the organization that “John Smith” had previously played for. He said the organization actually told them that they were not allowed to talk to “John Smith” because he felt that they had not earned the right or respect in the game of basketball to talk to him. I didn’t know basketball accolades excluded someone from being a decent person.
Years later, my good friend and I are sitting around talking to a Hall of Fame coach that we both know and he tells us a story about how “John Smith” sat across from him once on a plane. The Hall of Fame coach said he leaned over the aisle to introduce himself and “John Smith” gave him a blank stare and ignored his extended hand. Coach said he tried one more time and got the same result. Later that evening coach and “John Smith” ended up at the same event and “John Smith”, acted as if he didn’t remember what happened on the plane.
I share this story to show that not everyone is who you think they are until you actually encounter them. As a professional athlete I have emotions and like others I try not to wear the emotions on my sleeve when dealing with fans, because you never know who and how you can affect someone. I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan, now if I would have met MJ and had the experience I had with “John Smith”, that would have hurt. I would have gotten over it of course, but it still would have been tough. My experiences meeting MJ was a moment I will never forget. He was nice, called me by name and even gave me some advice.
One of the best athlete to fan interactions I encountered was on behalf of Lebron James. Lebron and I were heading to the mall in Orlando. While sitting in traffic on a bridge we saw two young boys walking down the street dribbling a basketball. In typical Lebron fashion, Bron opens the door and says to the two young boys “What’s up! Y’all going to hoop? Man, I love to hoop. Y’all be good.” The boys never spoke, just starred with their mouths open. As we drove away, I looked back and the little boys were going crazy. They finally realized what had happened. Bron didn’t have to speak to those boys that day, but I bet it made their day a lot better.
The moral of the story is that it’s ok to look up to someone based on a talent that they may possess, but never put them on a pedestal so high that if they don’t meet your expectations it damages you. We all have flaws, some are just not visible to everyone. On the flip side, always remember, it costs absolutely nothing to just be a decent human being. You never know who you could be dealing with and how one interaction could change things.
Till next time… STRIVE TO EXCEL!