LeBron James is 29 years old. His age alone makes him part of the Millennial generation, a fellow team of 19-34 year olds he can’t quit. The largest generation since the Baby Boomers, by all accounts, we, Millennials are in a league of our own. But it’s not just LeBron’s age that makes him a certified Millennial, it’s his career choices as well.
Millennials are characterized by some people as being flighty, risky, and hasty. Others might say we’re loyal, dedicated and passionate. Both set of traits contain some truth and surely impact our decisions to stay or leave a job. Millennials on average only stay at a job for only 18 months. It’s not that we want to leave, but if we’re not being fulfilled we don’t find the need to stay. Many Millennials are not simply loyal to a company; we’re loyal to our supervisors. In fact, effective bosses are the number one reason why Millennials stay at a job. For GenXers and Boomers who have a much more rooted sense of employer loyalty, the perceived fickle nature of these youthful employees is frowned upon.
What makes our generation so unique is our willingness to take risks and put our destinies in our own hands, not the hands of someone else. We all recall LeBron’s 2010 decision to leave his home team, Cleveland Cavaliers, to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. It did not sit well with, fans, teammates and team owner, Dan Gilbert, to say the least. Fans burned LeBron’s Cleveland jersey, called him a traitor, disloyal and a coward for pursuing the championship with another team.
But was he really all of these things? Or was he exhibiting the millennial quality that says he’s unwilling to settle and prepared to take the risk and chart a different path?
LeBron was 25 on the night of "The Decision." A night that, until Friday when he decided to return to the Cavs, was the ultimate dark cloud over his ever-growing legacy.
He made a decision that night to leave the nest, the nest of Northeast Ohio where he was born and raised. A place where his family and friends were. A place that made him into a household name.
He chose to leave comfort. He left home.
Even as time passed over the past four years, and championships were won and images were somewhat restored, it was a decision that was still criticized. No, Jordan, Magic, Bird or Isiah wouldn't have done it. But that was a different time. A different era of the NBA. What LeBron did do was, for better or for worse, make his own decision to write his legacy the way he saw fit, not caring who would or would not approve.
And just like what many Millennials have experienced in their 20s, it takes making a tough decision to realize what we really want in life. That's what the past four years taught LeBron James.
In his first-person letter announcing his return, LeBron said "Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go."
LeBron's departure from Cleveland four years ago and his subsequent return last week was nobody's choice but his. From the way he structured his contract to have an opportunity to join Wade and Bosh in Miami, to having childhood friends run his business ventures, LeBron understands the importance of being in control of every aspect of his brand. It's a trait that many Millennial have. We are seeing more entrepreneurial endeavors being created by Millennials, more Millennials in leadership roles and more Millennials finding their passion. It’s what we do.
So what are we to make of LeBron now that’s he’s going home with hopes of winning another championship? LeBron like the more than 21.6 million Millennials is returning home to a place where he can raise his family and live comfortably. Can we really blame him? Now we will watch with the rest of America to see what happens…Let’s just not be surprised if he departs again to find a different path. He is after all a millennial.
Ebonie Johnson Cooper is a consultant, and blogger with a passion for community engagement and giving for black millennials. She is the owner of Friends of Ebonie, the social impact company all about young black philanthropy. Ebonie enjoys singing off-key and dancing on beat. Follow her at @EJCthatsMe.
Jamar Hudson is a Washington, DC-based media professional. Follow him @jamarhudson