Remember: When you’re celebrating, the world is watching

Why winning an election is the floor—not the ceiling

This has been a week of celebration. Shout out to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their victory and props to everyone who made their voices heard at the ballot box. Together, by voting, we helped shape the future. And that’s a big deal. History was made and I get why folks have flooded the streets.

Watching a woman—a woman of color—speak as the Vice President-Elect? I can’t tell you what that meant to me and to the women in my life, who can now set their sights higher than ever before—as it should be. And Kamala wasn’t the only Black woman who made history in this election. Stacey Abrams has put Georgia on all of our minds. 

But I also want to keep it real: Our work is not finished. Politics isn’t all about winning elections, though that’s an important first step. It’s about what you do with the power you have. Showing up to vote for president? That should be the floor, not the ceiling, of what we do for our democracy. We also need to hold our officials accountable—and we need to become more involved in local races, too, even if posting about them doesn’t get as many likes on your Instagram.

Now, I am not exactly the right person to lecture you on throwing down before you’ve done the hard work. As you might remember, in the summer of 2010, we had quite a party upon our arrival in Miami. We promised to win not one, not two, not three…well, you remember. Before we had even shared a court together as teammates, we were acting victorious—like the adrenaline of possibility would last forever.

That was a legendary week. And I don’t regret it. But I do wish that, as we felt the joy of anticipation, we had done a better job thinking about all of the work that was ahead of us—and about how those watching our premature parade might feel a way about it. No one likes to watch people celebrate, I’ve come to find out. 

Recently, a friend of mine from Boston told me what it was like to watch us that week as a Celtics fan. He remembered being livid—and motivated. When I heard that, I realized something I should have considered at the time: That if you’re out partying, someone else is at home watching. Your opponents are getting ready. And you’d better start preparing for what’s going to hit you.  

Which brings us back to the election. More than 70 million people voted to re-elect the president. That means almost half of the people that voted are probably feeling the exact opposite as those taking to the streets in euphoria. Anger, hostility, fear: those emotions are powerful. Regardless of who you support, no one likes to lose. 

So I want to share a motto that helped me throughout my career, which applies to everyone, no matter who you voted for in this election: Don’t get too high and don’t get too low. 

We talk a lot about how you can’t let a loss get you down—and that’s true. When you lose, the answer isn’t to fume that the game was rigged against you. (That’s like blaming the referees,  even after instant replay showed they were right to call a foul on you.) 

But you also need to be level-headed when you succeed—in fact, it might even be more important. Because when you win an election or a title, you can feel like you’re on top of the world. And you’ll have a lot of people telling you that you are. But you’ll only stay on top if you keep up the hard work.

We still have a lot of work to do as Americans, and in the interest of a better future, there has to be positive communication in order for things to get better. So celebrate this week if you want, there’s nothing wrong with that. But then, let’s make sure that we use this victory to bring about positive change and make a real difference in people’s lives. Because that’s why we vote in the first place: Not just because we want to win, but because of what we want to accomplish when we do.