Much like my earlier obsession with sports psychologist Dan Abrahams, I have fallen hard for the writing on Grantland.com. Last night, Jay Caspian Kang posted a terrific article on the broken brand of UNC player, Harrison Barnes. I have included the link at the bottom of this post and would encourage you to read as well, but the bottomline of Kang’s piece is that from the last two years of high school through present, Barnes has seen himself as an NBA-bound brand. As precocious as this maybe, and certainly Lebron James was much the same, it becomes problematic when the performance fails to measure up. This is where Barnes finds himself.
Manchester United coach, Sir Alex Ferguson,had a great quote near the end of David Beckham, another notable brand over substance guy, was reaching the end of his time with United, “You can’t hide from the pitch.”
It is a simple truth. Any athlete will ultimately be measured by what they accomplish on the field. No amount of hype, branding, community service or good humor will save them. Is Kang’s piece on Barnes a final judgment? No, Barnes has the power to change it, not with public apologies or PR manuevers, but by working on his game, and playing better when it counts. Over the last two years, no athlete has taken more heat (ouch) than Lebron James, but winning a title this year, and maybe next, and who knows one after that corrects all of that. Kobe Bryant’s rehabilitation from Colorado was culminated by winning an NBA title without Shaq.
An athlete should never forget how he is measured, nor forget that he controls that measurement through his own hard work.