Just in case you haven't heard, LeBron James has finally won his first NBA championship. Yet, what you hear about more than anything is just how far he has come, on and off the court, since his defeat in last year's finals and the decision he made that many people did not exactly agree with.
That being said, there are huge differences between 2011 and 2012 LeBron.
After losing to the Dallas Mavericks and grieving for a little bit, James did what any great player would do in his situation: got back to work.
He had failed his team when they needed him most, shrunk in the big moments, and satisfied many NBA fans rooting against the Miami Heat and pleading for them to fail.
Like many other players in the NBA, James has made his fair share of mistakes throughout his career, but according the many people, the worst one came in 2010 when he decided to pair up with several other all-stars, ultimately giving up on his goal on bringing Cleveland home its first ring.
Immediately deemed a villain after he uttered the words "South Beach," that's exactly what LeBron tried to play like in 2011. No longer did we see James dancing on the bench during games, elaborate pre-grame rituals with his teammates, or even the occasional smile here and there. It didn't look like he was having fun anymore.
Instead he went out and tried to prove all his haters and nonbelievers wrong. Surely he heard all the talk. He heard all the jokes. He heard what not only NBA legends had to say, but also current players and as a result he felt like he had something to prove.
Never before had we seen LeBron, this fun-loving young man who was on the front of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16, play so angrily. But still he and his newly assembled super team made it to the NBA finals. Despite all the hatred and negativity surrounding the team, they still managed to make it to the big stage and LeBron was ready to shut everybody up once and for all.
Maybe a little bit too ready.
He played tense, he tried to do too much. It was like he forgot how to play the game of basketball and the then two-time MVP simply looked like a klutz.
Oh, but what a difference a year can make.
Finally LeBron asked himself the most important question, what does he have to prove?
He looked around and found himself in a great place in life and decided to get back to playing like he's been taught to play his entire life. Unselfish, but dominant. Intense, but calm. Focused, but loose.
It was clear from the beginning of the season that LeBron was a much different player than the one we watched endure such hate last year. He figured out a way to tune out his surroundings including the media and the crowd and was on his way to having arguably the best season of his career. I'm sure he'd say so considering it ended with a championship.
In some ways, it seems as though what James had to go through in 2011 made him the great player we got to witness in 2012.
The joy on his face was unmatched when he hoisted that championship trophy, and whether you love him or hate him, it was good to see such a heavy weight lifted off his shoulders.
He may have promised eight championships, but you can't get eight until you get one and you can only hope and pray that the LeBron we saw in 2012 is the one we will see for the rest of his career.
LeBron dominated every aspect of the game for 48 minutes, especially in the playoffs and many people aren't sure whether or not this guy has even reached his prime.
But one thing is for certain, 2012 LeBron is a much different and better player than the one of 2011 and surely he will want to taste that sweet champagne at the end of the tunnel once again next season.