Breaking Down How LeBron James Made the Biggest Transformation in NBA History

Peter EmerickSenior Writer IIJune 22, 2012

LeBron James finally did it. Well, actually the Miami Heat did it.

Either way, LeBron James has his first of hopefully many NBA titles, and he did it by transforming into a mature and selfless player.

At this time last season, LeBron had just lost the 2011 NBA Finals, and he didn't handle it well.

After a tough Game 6 loss, LeBron came out and had this to say about the loss and his disappointing performance in the 2011 NBA Finals.

All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today...But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”

That quote aptly describes the kind of player LeBron was before the 2011-12 season began.

He was selfish. He was arrogant. He was playing to prove people wrong. And he cared more about protecting himself from his haters, than he cared about growing as a person by being vulnerable after an emotional roller-coaster of a season.

At this time last year, LeBron was in hiding. He wasn't just physically hiding from those around him, he was also trying to hide emotionally from the pain involved in learning from his mistakes and growing up into a mature and humble player.

LeBron's inability to be vulnerable and his failure to accept responsibility for his mistakes is what held him back for the past eight seasons, and it's what was at the foundation of his inability to win his first ring until now.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during the national anthem before Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals between the Heat and the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Entering his ninth season in the NBA, LeBron found himself at a crossroad.

He could continue to selfishly play to prove all of his detractors wrong and focus on avoiding responsibility at all costs. Or he could look at himself in the mirror and decide to make the changes he needed to make for the past few years and finally transition from finding his identity in being "the chosen one," to being a mature player with his success and failure rooted in humility.

LeBron decided to go with the latter of the two options and finally accept responsibility for the mistakes he made, and the people he hurt, and in doing so begin his transformation into being the champion he is today.

It all started when LeBron sat down with ESPN's Rachel Nichols in this interview and joked about the way fans and media poked fun at his inability to close, and his new-found desire to play for the love of the game instead of playing to prove people wrong. 

I've heard all the jokes. And now I'm at a point where I just laugh at them. I think last year I would've been mad at it [jokes] or angry...I think the biggest teacher in life is experiences that you go through. That's the only way that you learn. I'm going to work 10 times harder this year to get back there. This time I won't be playing to try to prove anybody wrong, and that's where bad habits picked up over the course of the season, be because my whole season was about trying to prove people wrong and that's not how I play the game of basketball.

It was certainly one thing for LeBron to come out and say that. But it was a much different thing when he came out during the regular season and proved it by winning the regular-season MVP with averages of 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat answers questions from the media next to the Larry O'Brien Finals Championship trophy and James' Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy during his post game press conference after they won 121-106 against th
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

LeBron's memorable season and subsequent transformation wouldn't have been complete if he couldn't carry that over into the postseason.

Once again, LeBron led with incredible performance after incredible performance, and then he put his maturation on display when he came out accepted responsibility for the fact that he acted in an immature and disrespectful way at the end of 2010-11 season.

Like I said, last year I played to prove people wrong instead of just playing my game, instead of just going out and having fun and playing a game that I grew up loving and why I fell in love with the game. So I was very immature last year after Game 6 toward you guys and toward everyone that was watching.

LeBron followed that up by coming out in his first closeout game in the NBA Finals, and accounting for his second NBA Finals' triple-double, with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds—making him the first player since Magic Johnson to account for two triple-doubles in the NBA Finals.

LeBron has finally transformed into an NBA champion, but that transformation didn't begin on the court.

His transformation began in the locker room after losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, and it wasn't finished until he hoisted the 2012 Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

Even though a majority of fans will argue that LeBron took the easy way out by taking his talents to South Beach, LeBron's 2012 transformation goes to show that even with all the talent in the world, a championship requires maturity and an ability to lead those around you, which is something LeBron James never had until this year.

The only question now is just how many titles LeBron and company can bring to Miami. Congratulations LeBron, you've truly earned this one.