The Heat held their annual pre season media day today and LeBron James reiterated the ideals he has stressed throughout the off season.
James was highly criticised and scrutinised following his less than lacklustre Finals performances that completely overshadowed his incredible playoff series’ against the Celtics and Bulls.
James has picked up a few more negative nicknames over the summer and has been the butt of all too many jokes.
2010/2011 LeBron James would have acted out in anger, taken it as nothing but an insult and responded in a way that he never used to. He has promised that LeBron James is gone, and the one that everyone used to love, will be back.
That by no measure means everyone will love him again. Most likely he will experience the majority of the hatred he received last season because he has done nothing yet to re-earn their respect and fandom.
James is looking to make sure that is one thing that changes.
“We didn’t come together to win a playoff series. We came together to win the NBA Finals.”
LeBron admitted that he entered a dark place following the Finals loss to the Mavericks, confessing; “I didn’t leave my room for two weeks”. He said he went away and had a real good, hard look at himself, then opened up to former legends asking for their advice and opinion on both his game and himself as a person. Two of those were Magic Johnson and Hakeem Olajuwon. He felt rediscovering who he was will be key to ensuring future success.
“After I finally got over the Finals, I asked myself, what got you to this point? The love of the game.
I had never put too much pressure on myself, but it was such a different situation last year, going from a guy people liked to a guy people hated, going to a new team, new city, learning a new system. I’m just a lot more comfortable this year. More alive. Back to being myself.”
Whilst that’s sometimes a cliche answer, it’s relevant to James given he had a real decision to make over which path he would choose for his life. He was a standout football player, being named first team all state for Ohio, which is a prestigious honour in the state of Ohio and has produced numerous NFL players. He chose basketball, because of his love for the game.
The Miami Herald raised an interesting and certainly relevant point about James. The Decision was clearly a pre-organised event in which everything LeBron James said was largely scripted and nothing seemed to come from the heart. That was the biggest catalyst behind the tsunami of hate that followed. He went through the season, regurgitating the same lines about ‘not taking back what he said’, ‘not changing his decision’, ‘always been 100% certain in what he did’, blah blah blah. We all saw through it.
It wasn’t until he was brought to his absolute lowest point in the NBA Finals this year that we saw him finally open up.
Since then James has been extremely open and honest about everything, something that we have not really seen before from the usually guarded superstar. He has had to live a life so protected because of the incomparable attention he received from such an early age. No high school student, let alone professional athlete, has ever been more watched and talked about than LeBron James.
Because he has always been told what to do, what to say and how to act, the personality that everyone speaks so highly of has failed to come out when it is most needed. You see the footage of him playing around with teammates, officials and fans, yet when he is asked the decisive and probing questions, he goes into his shell and I think that is largely because of his upbringing. It was that environment which forced to be this way.
The fact he never had a father, never had a role model and a guarding figure throughout his playing career too has significantly decreased his ability to develop both as a player and a person. Had he come to Cleveland with a veteran leader, someone that could act as a father figure, I think the majority of this nonsense would have been avoided. He now has Shane Battier, one of the most respected players in the league, and James’ willingness to appeal to players like Olajuwon and Magic during the offseason could be a sign that James will seek the same counsel from Battier.
LeBron opened up about what he became and where he is now.
“The criticism doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m at a good place now. I look at my numbers, and I did OK during the season, but I wasn’t who I was when I started playing basketball at 9. I had to prove myself every day where I grew up. I let my game do the talking.
Last year I said, ‘OK, I’m going to prove everybody wrong.’ I was so blinded and out of whack. You try to do so many things that you forget who you are.
I’m not going out there to prove anybody wrong; I’m not asking for forgiveness. I learned from it. I’m back to who I was.”
There’s no good telling us, it’s time to show it.