The incredible pressure he faced to win a championship played with him psychologically. As he told ESPN's Stuart Scott after the NBA Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, he needed to get back to "having fun with the game."
LeBron was trying to prove people wrong. He wanted to show the NBA that there was a very good reason he famously decided to "take his talents to South Beach."
And he suffered for it. But once he got back to who he truly was as a basketball player, he was unstoppable.
Playoff game after playoff game, LeBron showed up big in 2012. The real King appeared.
He now understands what it takes to win. He knows what his role is in Miami—and it is a dynamic one in the sense that it changes night to night.
One night he may catch fire and take a majority of the Heat shots. The next day Dwyane Wade may be absolutely locked in as LeBron assumes the role of a facilitator. Not many players in the NBA are capable of doing the multitude of things that LeBron can do on the floor.
Kevin Durant has a better shot. Rajon Rondo is a better passer. And of course, Dwight Howard is a better rebounder.
But each of the aforementioned players is known primarily for said ability. LeBron can do it all, as exemplified in his career average of 28 points, seven assists and seven rebounds per game.
He came to Miami to be this well-rounded player.
With the excruciating pressure off putting a ring on his finger lifted, he can let loose to a certain degree and just have fun.
The comparison to Michael Jordan winning a ring at a similar age is irrelevant. LeBron is a different player in a different era.
And he is still in the midst of his career. At 27 years old, LeBron James is in his prime.
Look for the Heat to compete for the best record in the NBA and LeBron to improve upon already stellar regular-season performances (he is a three-time MVP).
Twenty-nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists per game is not an outrageous expectation for the reigning MVP.
And we will probably be having a similar discussion again next year when he hoists his fourth Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
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