With the surreal, unprecedented events of 2020 that have bled into the new year, it's become natural for us to put up emotional barriers. We would love to spend all day thinking about how to help stem the tide of COVID-19 or how to solve the issue of race inequality in America, and reckon with our feelings about being stuck in overwhelming situations. But we can't always do that. We have jobs to do. We have families to take care of. We have tasks that need to be done.
Occasionally, however, our passions swell with such ferocity that the emotional dam has no recourse but to break, allowing the full gamut of feelings to burst through. Sometimes it's anger. Sometimes it's pain. Sometimes it's laughter.
"Those were tears of joy, man, I'm telling you. I tell everybody, those were tears of joy," Davis told CBS Sports in a December minterview. "Just being able to enjoy this entire season, and now we get to the point where we can hoist this trophy. I think that's the biggest thing -- we went through so much as a team for an entire calendar year, and we stayed together.
" ... Once the final buzzer went off, it kind of all just sunk in for me personally, just, 'you did it.' I did it. We did it. The organization did it. And it was just a proud moment for me, proud of the guys, proud of myself. It was one of the best feelings in the world."
The tears of joy were particularly noticeable because Davis rarely shows emotion on the court. But after a sudden and terrifying NBA hiatus in March, the fear of contracting the virus during the shutdown and a three-month stretch in the bubble away from friends, family and society at large, Davis had plenty to be thankful for.
That perspective -- that basketball is just part of the bigger picture -- helped Davis achieve his ultimate goal. Rather than relying on success to dictate his happiness, he lets happiness dictate his success. So when Michelob Ultra approached Davis about a campaign that reminds people to enjoy life and savor those precious moments, it seemed like a natural fit.
"In order to be successful, you have to have joy. I don't think you're happy because you win. I think you win because you're happy," Davis told CBS Sports. "I feel like most times when I'm winning, even in college, Olympics, obviously this championship here -- all those small things in life I consider a win, it's because I'm most happy and most joyful."
Maintaining that joy wasn't always easy over the past year, but Davis credits his Lakers teammates for their ability to make it all the way to the end of the bubble without fracturing or infighting. Whether they were playing video games, lounging by the pool or occasionally "having a couple Michelob Ultras," Davis says the team's camaraderie was essential to the championship run. He'll forever have a close bond with every member of the team, even those who have moved on to different organizations this season.
In today's 24-7 social media frenzy, professional athletes have to endure endless criticism. If a player posts a video doing virtually anything not immediately related to their sport, the inevitable comments appear saying, "Shouldn't you be working out?" or something of that ilk. Davis knows the criticism well -- both his basketball ability and leadership were constantly questioned as the New Orleans Pelicans only made two playoff appearances, advancing to the second round once, during his seven seasons with the franchise. Davis has learned that while, of course, it's necessary to put in the work and be dedicated to your craft, it's essential to make sure that your job doesn't take away from your joy in life.
"I'll tell you one thing that I learned from being in this field of work is that life is about balance. You have to balance," Davis told CBS Sports. "For me, when I'm at work, I'm locked in. When I'm on the court at practice or a game or whatever, this is my time -- two, three hours of dedicating myself to the craft. ... But when I'm not playing, I'm enjoying my life.
"I'm 27 years old, I'm gonna enjoy this, have joy, when I'm still here. It's 2020, you don't know what's gonna happen, so you want to enjoy your time on this Earth. I'm gonna continue to have fun and do what I want to do to keep me happy, because I know that me being happy off the floor will translate on the floor, where I'm able to play free and play with more energy and more effort because I'm so happy."
Davis says that one player who embodies a healthy work-life balance is teammate LeBron James. Despite James' endless list of accomplishments on the court, he's a dedicated father and husband, while contributing time, money and effort to initiatives like his I Promise School in Akron, Ohio and the More Than a Vote organization dedicated toward inspiring Black Americans to register and make their voices heard at the polls.
"He's always happy. I've never seen LeBron mad -- he's always happy," Davis told CBS Sports. "But on the flipside, he's so determined and hard-working for basketball. So it's a balance, and you've got to find a balance."
With his goal of an NBA championship officially crossed off a list of trophies that includes an NCAA title at Kentucky and gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and 2014 World Cup, it's natural to wonder what's next for Davis, and how he can maintain the motivation. His Lakers are off to another fantastic start in the 2020-21 season and are the favorites to repeat, but as we've seen many times, winning the second title is often harder than the first.
"My family's my motivation. They push me, never let me be complacent, never let me settle," Davis told CBS Sports. "Just being happy in life, knowing that when I go out and play, I'm playing for something, playing for someone, playing for people, playing for my last name.
"I had that feeling of winning, I enjoyed it. It was the best feeling in the world, that you can't even really put in words, and knowing I want that feeling again is what also drives me. I want to feel it again. I want to be that happy again. I want to be able to hoist the trophy and cry again, tears of joy. I want that feeling again. While having fun through the process, right? It's gonna be a process, there's gonna be ups and downs, but as long as I enjoy every single step of that journey, it's gonna be easy for me."