Humility may be sport’s comeback virtue of the new year. In the guise of one freshly minted superstar and another veteran egomaniac, the virtue is making some high-profile appearances.
SHY, GRATEFUL AND HUMBLE
The headline of the USA Today feature (2-17-17) on Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant read “Young Cubs superstar stays humble as fame grows and accolades pile up.” He’s a 2016 World Series champion and National League MVP. His extraordinary success has obliged him to publicly accept his superstar status – guest appearances on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Ellen,” for instance – the “shy and humble kid,” as the newspaper article noted. Yet he would rather eat takeout and watch Netflix with his high-school sweetheart wife than hit the Strip in his hometown of Las Vegas, where he lives in the off-season.
The refreshingly self-aware 25-year-old laughs along with his fans at his remarkable good fortune. Rookie of the Year his first year. Most Valuable Player his second. “I hear it all of the time now,” Bryant is quoted in the USA Today article, “People say, ‘You had a pretty good career in two years.’ I tell them, ‘Yeah, I guess it can only go downhill from here.’ Really, I couldn’t be in a more perfect situation.”
Cubs president Theo Epstein marvels at Bryant’s skills and potential, but doubts whether he’ll replace Derek Jeter as the face of the game. “I don’t know if he’ll ever allow himself to grow that big,” he says, adding, “He definitely understands the responsibility of being one of the best players in the game, but he’s not an attention grabber. He’s not a big talker.”
“I’m a big believer in good karma and bad karma,” Bryant said. “I believe in telling the truth, being a good person and treating people with respect. If you do that, good things happen to you.”
LOUD, PROUD … AND HUMBLE
Another refreshingly welcome, though arguably long overdue, show of humility comes from a baller who anointed himself King James and refers to the Cavaliers as “my team.” For the first decade-plus of his career LeBron James almost single-handedly relegated humility to sport’s proverbial bench.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, an Associated Press article (2-19-17) spoke of an “older, wiser and more aware of the world” version of the 14-year-veteran. In contrast to (shy) Kris Bryant, the AP article about James’ all-star weekend observed how he “has been taking full advantage of his massive platform.”
Setting aside briefly his loud and proud demeanor, James allowed a rare appearance of maturity and humility to escape. The article shared how excited James’ two sons were to watch the show, not for their dad, but for their two favorites players Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.
“LeBron Jr. wore 0 for the longest time because he loves Russ,” James explained. “Bryce wore 30 because he likes Steph and likes to shoot the ball from deep.” And then the King laughed and added, “I think that’s pretty cool.” Very cool, coming from a guy with a historically insuppressible ego.
Here’s hoping humility gets more playing time. “Off the bench to enter the game, is HUMILITY!” the announcer exults. The crowd cheers in approval.