There’s no doubt about it, 2016 was merciless AF. From all of the icons we lost to police killings to the absolute cluster of an election, it seemed that nothing good, or even rational emerged from 2016. But I’m here to remind you that even in the darkest and most despairing of times, there is always, always, always a lesson to be learned. And in my world, of sports that is, some of 2016’s most discussed athletes could teach a master class based on their actions. From Serena Williams’s shocking engagement news to Colin Kaepernick’s evolution from athlete to activist — 2016 was an eye-opening year loaded with lessons. Lessons that we should all heed and carry with us as we move forward into 2017.
Happy New Year!
MUHAMMAD ALI – DEFINE YOURSELF FOR OTHERS
For decades, the GOAT battled Parkinson’s Disease the only way he knew how; like a champ. And still, when we learned the 74-year-old boxer passed away, we were all shaken by the news. In the days that followed his death, countless memories of how Ali boldly lived his life as an unapologetic pro-Black trash-talking proud Muslim athlete, man, and activist radiated. We were reminded of his courage and confidence. How, because of his ability to manifest his greatness through an incomparable work ethic and positive mindset –“I’m the greatest, I said that even before I knew was.” — the world conspired on his behalf, and the rest became history.
In 2017, let’s all channel our inner Ali. Let’s speak positivity over ourselves and one another. Let’s rid our lives of self-doubt and defeatist attitudes. Let’s dictate our life’s path through our words and deeds. Don’t be defined by your circumstances or anyone else. Unleash the power that resides within and claim what’s yours.
COLIN KAEPERNICK – TAKE A STAND, EVEN IF THAT MEANS STANDING ALONE
Or in Kaepernick’s case, sitting alone. When Kap made the personal decision to protest against police brutality, and social and racial injustice by first sitting, then taking a knee, during the national anthem, he knew the reaction would be divisive. And still, in the face of backlash and death threats, he remained unwavering in honoring his beliefs and convictions. He endured season-long criticism in an effort to spark dialogue and inspire change. And I believe he accomplished his purpose, which will no doubt continue despite his football season ending today. Now, the real work begins.
Let’s follow Kap’s lead and dig deep within to assess what moves us so intensely that we’d be willing to risk it all if it meant making a difference for others. Our world is in shambles. From Syria to Turkey, and of course right here in the United States; the suffering is real. The hate is real. And we can’t be content just sitting on the sidelines as active observers. Whether you’re a writer, singer, tech guru, teacher, it doesn’t matter. If you have breath in your body, and love in your heart, you can do more to make this world a more caring and inhabitable place for us all. I encourage all of us to engage in more acts of service in the new year.
CRAIG SAGER –HONOR YOUR UNIQUENESS
NBA reporter Craig Sager was truly one of a kind. As we know, the list of people who could pull off rocking “Sager suits” while reporting on the job is short. He’s one of one and that’s why he was successful in his career. When it comes to on-camera work, much is made is about physical appearances. But when your professionalism is top-notch, and you masterfully weave your bold fashion sense into your overall brand, you are recognized for your individuality and knack for developing a unique presentation style; when others would be characterized as a distraction.
This year, let’s all honor that one thing that sets us apart from the rest; and generously share it with the world.
JOSE FERNANDEZ – LIVE TODAY BECAUSE TOMORROW ISN’T PROMISED
The Miami Marlins ace was full of life and possibility. After the Cuban risked his life multiple times seeking asylum in America, he achieved his dream of pitching in the Majors. Newly engaged, with a baby on the way, Fernandez was seemingly on top of the world with so much to live for at the time of his untimely death. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old pitcher’s life was cut short in a boating accident that no one would’ve predicted. Let this be a lesson to all of us to live today because tomorrow isn’t promised.
RYAN LOCHTE- DON’T BE A FUCKBOI
Ladies, this applies to you too.
SERENA WILLIAMS – MAKE MORE MOVES, LESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Pow! The Queen of the Court has some engagement bling to go with her 22 Grand Slam trophies.
Serena’s engagement news came out of nowhere for most of us. Because of society’s obsession with broadcasting every painstaking detail of life, when someone, especially a celebrity who seemingly lives their life so publicly, drops a bomb like this, people feel some type of way. But why? Everything ain’t your business. Each private moment isn’t for public consumption.
In 2017, let’s do a better job of cherishing our most personal moments and keeping them private. Honoring the journey and using better discernment in sharing with the masses. I know most of us are guilty of only sharing the highlights of life, but let’s even keep those to a minimum. For the new year, when you’re ready to post something to the ‘gram, ask yourself what would Serena do, and do that.
LEBRON JAMES/CHICAGO CUBS – DREAMS DO COME TRUE!
Who would have ever thought that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Cubs would win sports championships in the same calendar year? Think about it. It took the Cavs organization 46 years to win its first championship. And the Cubs hadn’t won a World Series in 108 years (!!!!). But, LeBron James would not be denied of his dream to be the first to make it happen for his beloved city of Cleveland. And the genius of Cubs president Theo Epstein prevailed once again. Two perennial losing franchises turned champions were a shining example of what it means to try, try again until you succeed. Now, most of us don’t have 46 or 108 years to get it right, but keep moving forward in your purpose and God will make provisions along your path to success. Just stay the course!
KEVIN DURANT — DO YOU, BOO.
Listen. I get why people (still) dislike Durant’s decision to leave OKC for the Golden State Warriors. I really do. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it until the end of time. Durant has to live his life and be at peace for no one else but Durant. He knows what goals he’s set for himself and while we feel entitled to judge his choices, why should we? I’m sure you’ve made some unpopular choices in your lifetime along your quest to have it all — whatever “all” means to you. And some worked out, while others didn’t. But regardless of the outcome, weren’t you content in knowing that you chose based on your own personal wants, needs, or desires? And not what others, while (maybe) well-intentioned, projected upon you?
Sorry to break this to you, but Hov did us dirty when he said, “In order to survive, we’ve gotta learn to live with regrets.” Life isn’t about surviving. It’s about thriving. And the only true way to accomplish that is to ignore everyone, and do you, boo.
MICHAEL PHELPS — MAKE YOUR HATERS, YOUR MOTIVATORS
Oh, the petty.
This photo of “Angry Phelps” is hilarious. As internet lore goes, the photo was snapped moments before the men’s 200m butterfly semifinal during the Olympics. His South African rival, Chad le Clos, was annoyingly preparing for the meet in front of him, and this was Phelps’ reaction.
While Phelps denied le Clos was the inspiration behind this Hall of Fame worthy meme, I don’t believe him. So yeah, in 2017, as we all search for motivation to achieve our goals, let’s engage in healthy competition. Put in the work, prepare, and make a mental note of the folks who’ve talked ish about you. But don’t dwell on what the next man or woman is doing. Peep game, and then go do the damn thing. Because if you recall, le Clos didn’t even medal in that event. Ha!
DAK PRESCOTT – STAY READY SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET READY
If given the opportunity to sub in for a starting quarterback, not every rookie would’ve been prepared. While Prescott’s success is a very much a testament to his talent (and that Dallas O-line), we also have to acknowledge his readiness to lead when his number was called.
Let this be a lesson to all of us to remain in student mode. Constantly study your craft, stay open to constructive feedback, and committed to improvement. You might not be where you want to be today, but change happens quickly. Don’t allow your lack of readiness be the reason why you did not seize what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
GABBY DOUGLAS — PEOPLE ARE GOING TO TALK, SO GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
Four years ago, the internet came for Gabby’s edges. This year, they came back for her edges and even harder for what was ridiculously interpreted as her lack of American pride. And through all of the cyber-bullying, Gabby remained as gracious and strong as one could possibly be given the situation. And to top it all off, she returned to the States with another gold medal in hand.
Regardless of how beautiful, talented, or magical you are, some people are going to talk negatively about you because their miserable lives leave them unfulfilled with nothing better to do. So, you might as well give them something to talk about. Whenever Gabby is discussed, she will always be referred to as a three-time Gold medal Olympian. While that title is only reserved for the best of the best of the best, we should all aspire to goaldig so relentlessly that when anyone mentions us — good or bad — they must first and always acknowledge the dopeness that resides within.
RONDA ROUSEY — TAKE YOUR L, AND BOUNCE BACK
OK, this story is still being written, but let’s hope Rousey is able to bounce back from her embarrassing 48-second Amanda Nunes pounding.
All of us will suffer some losses in 2017. Dear God, please don’t let them be as painful or public as Rousey’s, but may whatever setback you experience in the new year be a setup for something greater.