LeBron James, Star Wars, and The Lion King

In Sports & Society, Wise Pop by Brad Wise

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Brad Wise

Brad Wise

American scholar Joseph Campbell spent his life comparing mythologies and found that a single “storyline” appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development throughout history. He called it the Hero’s Journey. His books have been the go to reference for archetypal stories. Star Wars, The Matrix, The Lion King and countless films follow the Hero’s Journey.

If LeBron James decides to go back to Cleveland, one might argue his career also follows this classic path.

Here’s my quick summary of the stages of the Hero’s Journey. See if you find any connections to King James.

1. Ordinary World- The Hero is born into and lives in a comfortable world.

2. Call to Adventure- But he wants more. He needs/dreams of something bigger.

3. Refusal of the Call- He tries to make things work at home.

4. Supernatural Aid- A trusted mentor or friend convinces him it’s time to leave home.

5. Crossing the Threshold- He finally makes The Decision to leave and take his talents to a new land.

6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies- He faces a series of challenges from all sides. His hometown burns effigies, old bosses write scathing letters, competition rises up.

7. The Reward- He eventually accomplishes what he set out to do. But something is missing.

8. The Road Back- So he decides to go back home and complete his journey.

9. Resurrection- He faces a climactic ordeal and is reborn/transformed.

10. Return with Elixir- He returns home with all the experiences and wisdom gained from his adventure to transform his ordinary world into the legendary.

11. We are all witnesses. (Thank you, ESPN, for 24-hour coverage of The Decision, Part II.)

UPDATE: The Hero Returns

It’s official. As I’m sure you’ve heard, LeBron announced his return in this SI article. His language and tone sounds like the Hero on the Road Back. He has the elixir and maturity to return transformed and change everything. I’m particularly struck by his closing paragraph:

“But this [his return] is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.

“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.

“I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”

Photo (Flickr CC) by Craig Hatfield

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Brad Wise

Brad Wise

Featured Storyteller
Brad is the Chief Creative Officer for Rebel Pilgrim Productions and co-founder of Rebel Storytellers. He co-hosts the Rebel Storytellers Podcast with Steve Fuller. And when he's not doing all that he's hanging out with his beautiful wife, Leah, and their kids, Henry and Jane. Their hound dog, Lola, is usually close by as well.
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