LeBron pressure: Not like Jackie Robinson
When I blogged about the pressure certain athletes faced, I didn’t list Jackie Robinson. A couple of readers have questioned why not, and the answer is, obviously Robinson faced more pressure than any athlete ever.
I didn’t list him for two reasons. 1. It sort of demeans Robinson to even have the debate with him in it. And 2. The kind of pressure we’re talking about with LeBron and Wilt Chamberlain and Roger Maris, etc., is not the same kind of pressure Robinson faced.
I should have mentioned Robinson — should have included the explanation in that blog — but I’ll just do it here.
LeBron faces a certain kind of pressure to win these NBA Finals. Just like Wilt faced, to large degree. Maris faced a certain kind of pressure to perform well. Not necessarily win — winning was secondary to the 1961 Yankees; it was virtually automatic – but to approach Babe Ruth’s record despite large public and press opinion that he shouldn’t.
Robinson’s pressure didn’t have much to do with winning, even though, ironically, in 1947 he helped the Dodgers to just their second National League pennant in 27 years. Robinson’s pressure did have to do with playing well. But the idea that Robinson had to prove that blacks were athletically capable of playing Major League Baseball? Well, that was just silly, and only kooks questioned it. Not that there weren’t kooks in 1947 baseball.
No, Robinson’s pressure dealt more socially. He had to play well AND had to do it in a certain way. He had to act a certain way. Had to carry himself a certain way. Had to, in truth, be different from how he really was. Robinson was a competitive, fiery athlete. Robinson’s mission was to play well, but not so fiery and not so competitive.
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