If you're from where I'm from, then you can't wait for the start of the NBA training camp.
In South Florida, a training camp that the public won't be allowed to watch is drawing more anticipation than next week's Miami Dolphins game. There is more talk revolving around whether Dexter Pittman will be cut than what the Dolphins’ chances of making the playoffs are.
The fanbase of these two teams would rather know how Josh Harrellson benefits the team than how Legedu Naanee could possibly get involved in the Dolphins offense.
Mostly, however, fans are excited to see a stable team that knows how to play. A large reason why fans in the tri-county area of South Florida are foaming at the mouth for the NBA season to start is, of course, because of LeBron James.
We've been without professional basketball since June 21st, and with the Miami Heat's championship run ending in a success, the offseason has seemed to stretch on.
Needless to say, they're waiting on the edges of their seats because they want to see him pick up right where he left off—as an NBA champion on one side of the world and a gold-medal winner on another.
The 2011-12 season was the best of James' career because of how resilient he proved to be following the damaging loss in the 2011 Finals. It inspired him to come back with a completely new approach to the game; one that would require him to look for more scoring opportunities in high-percentage areas and stray away from isolation plays at the top of the perimeter.
As a result of this new method, James attempted a career-low 2.4 three-point attempts per game, while converting a career-high 53 percent from the field. His PER skyrocketed from 27.3 the previous season to 30.7, and his offensive rating jumped from 116 to 118.
James made himself a better player, which transcended to his teammates, who thrived heavily off of LeBron's influence in the post.
What this new style has led to for LeBron is laying down the groundwork for a far more efficient career, which is obviously saying a lot since the first nine years of his career have already been wildly efficient.
By constructing a new post game and winning a title as a result, James has won back the blessings of those that had once turned on him. It has led to him becoming recognized as the league's top player once again—a title that was stripped from him due to the animosity surrounding his departure from Cleveland.
LeBron was still the best in the world in 2011, but we were humored just to have someone else take MVP to appease the masses.
Along with winning a title comes confidence—and a huge amount of pressure released off of James' shoulders. Although we perceive LeBron to be a superhuman who can leap over buildings and speed past locomotives, he is still human, and some humans don't react to pressure as well as others. James proved that he can play under pressure, but also showed that he had flaws.
Last year was the most pressure-filled environment he's ever encountered. The response to that pressure is what has garnered him the respect he once lost. Knowing that the blame would come upon him for a second consecutive season, and many more questions left pondering his decision, James ended up playing the best basketball of his career in some of the tightest spots.
Game 4 against Indiana, Game 6 against Boston, Game 4 against Oklahoma City. Each game put LeBron James' capabilities on full display as he attacked the rim, made his presence felt in every facet and, much to the chagrin of those who rooted against him, consistently hit big-time shots in pressure situations.
The confidence and experience LeBron gained from that postseason run is what's going to allow him to be the NBA's most polarizing player until the day he retires. For a player that relies so heavily on his confidence and demeanor, LeBron is going to be riding momentum at an all-time high going into the 2012-13 season as he anticipates every NBA team gunning for the Heat even more than the past two seasons.
He'll certainly have challengers.There's no doubt that Kevin Durant—as well as his teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden— will be even hungrier than ever for an NBA title after last year's disappointing end. The Los Angeles Lakers featuring Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard will also look to give the Heat a run for their money.
What they don't have, however, is a freight train that is capable of putting up triple-doubles in the series clinchers of the NBA Finals, and that's what separates the Heat from teams like the Thunder or Lakers.
LeBron will be 28 years old this December, just to make things that much scarier. He is just now entering the proverbial age where NBA players reach their prime.
As much as everyone would like to downplay this occasion by saying LeBron's physical attributes will begin to fade, they don't take into account the mental portion of the game and just how large of strides James has taken in the past two years alone.
That's the big difference we've seen in the player that played in Cleveland. You hardly ever saw LeBron with this business-like approach to every game. There's no room for the cute charades on the sidelines before and during games.
He went to Miami to win more than just games and have fun. He went there to play the game and win the games he should have been winning.
There's no telling what LeBron's future is going to hold, other than that he will still probably be really good for at least the next five years. With Durant turning 24 in a few days and how incredible he already is, he will be the only player that will end up giving LeBron any sort of competition when it comes to taking the throne as the NBA's top star player.
However, Durant will never carry himself on defense the same way as LeBron nor will he be nearly as good as a facilitator. There's no doubt that his defense will improve, but he's not going to be the consistent all-around threat LeBron is.
The fact that LeBron is putting up the same scoring numbers as Durant AND dishing out seven assists per contest, compared to three per contest in Durant's career, showcases how James touches every part of the floor.
I cannot say whether or not James will be the NBA's top star player until he retires. My crystal ball doesn't allow me to go that far, nor do I want to.
Rather than looking toward how many accolades LeBron is going to end up winning, stay in the present and appreciate what we have now with James and the new crop of players who are gunning for his spot atop the NBA ladder.
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