For the last two weeks, basketball fans were waiting to see which way the ball would bounce. Two all world players - Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony had become free agents and the potential suitors were lining up. Meanwhile, there were many other good players who had also become free agents, but teams were not jumping to sign them as the league was waiting to see where James and Melo would land.
On late Friday afternoon, James announced that he had decided to go back to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, even though he was "leaving money on the table" since the Miami Heat could have paid him more money had he stayed in Miami. But for Lebron, this was not about the money alone. In announcing his decision to return to Cleveland, Lebron penned an article for Sports Illustrated wherein he explained his need to return to his hometown. One of the more poignant statements he made was:
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.
In sharp contrast to Lebron James is the story of the ultimate me first player, Carmelo Anthony (why do the Knicks seem to be a magnet for these types of players). Melo has never won a championship and has not even gotten out of the second round in the three years that he has been a Knick. Yet when faced with a chance to leave for the Chicago Bulls, a team with a real possibility of reaching the NBA Finals, Anthony opted to take the team offering the most money (the NY Knicks) even though they may not even make the playoffs next year.
The idea of making choices based on ideals vs money is hardly a new concept. But at some point, one needs to ask - when is it enough money? When can the player make a sacrifice in order to join a team which has a chance to win the ultimate prize?
The concept of making tough choices, even with the possibility of losing financial status is a central concept in Torah thought. I recently heard a shiur from R' Mansour on learntorah.com wherein he observed that Yocheved had the most nachas (loosely translated as pride in the acts of one's children) of anyone in the Torah. Indeed, Yocheved saw her children become the leader of the Jews, the Kohain Gadol and a significant prophetess. Why did Yocheved merit this reward? Because she risked her life to deliver babies in Egypt. But the question can be asked - what kind of life could the children have if they were born into slavery? The answer could be that even though the life ahead for these children was tough, the selfless act of delivering the children in the face of certain punishment and giving the children the chance to live as Jews and do Hashem's will merited a great reward.
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