The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Lifestyles

June 29, 2012

Bowen: Lebron was a winner long before NBA championship

CLINTON — I am happy that LeBron James and the Miami Heat won the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship last week.

 It's not that I'm a big Miami fan; I was rooting for Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. But maybe the Heat's win will stop all the silly talk that LeBron James is not a great player because he had never won an NBA title.

 The talk is silly for several reasons.

 First, James has been an unbelievable player for nine seasons. He has averaged more than 27 points a game and around seven rebounds and seven assists. James's statistics in the playoffs are just as good.

  I understand that people were mad when James left the Cleveland Cavaliers two years ago to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. But that doesn't mean he isn't a great player.

 Second, there have been some great basketball players who never won a championship.

  Here's a list of five of the greatest NBA players ever. Every one is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. None of them played on a championship team.

 Elgin Baylor (played from 1958 to 1972): Baylor averaged more than 27 points and 13 rebounds a game. He was an 11-time NBA all-star.

 Karl Malone (1985-2004): Malone was nicknamed "The Mailman." He certainly delivered. Malone scored the second-most points in NBA history.

John Stockton (1984-2003): Stockton was Malone's teammate on the Utah Jazz for years. Stockton is the NBA's all-time career leader in assists.

 Charles Barkley (1984-2000): This 11-time all-star, who also won Olympic gold medals as part of the U.S. "Dream Team," is now one of the funniest basketball commentators around.

 Patrick Ewing (1985-2002): Another 11-time all-star, Ewing graduated from Georgetown University, where he played on the team that won the NCAA title. He also earned Olympic gold medals as a member of the 1984 and 1992 U.S. teams

 Finally, all the talk about winning championships sends the wrong message to kids: that winning is everything and you're a failure if you don't win a championship.

  I know that great athletes such as LeBron James are supposed to win. And I know that winning is fun, whether you are a pro or a kid.

 But there's more to playing sports, especially for kids, than winning. There's the joy of playing and competing. The fun of being part of a team and the satisfaction of getting better at a sport.

 The Summer Olympics are coming soon. I am sure there will be lots of great runners, swimmers and even world record holders who will miss out on an Olympic medal. That won't make them losers.

  Bowen is the author of 17 sports books for kids. His latest, "Go for the Goal!," will be published in August.

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