LeBron James is like Michael Jordan in a lot of ways, and different in many others. But I am not here to discuss who is better at what and who is the greatest of all time—don’t worry. One similarity between James and Jordan, which has come to light in more recent years, is their method of motivating themselves. In his heyday, Jordan would watch and read all kinds of criticism of himself and his play, and use it as fuel for the next game. James is now doing the same thing.
After the Indiana Pacers knocked off the New York Knicks in six games, Frank Vogel dismissed the reigning champion Miami Heat, his team's opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, by saying that they were “the next team that's in our way.”
Frank Vogel said after last night's game, "They're the next team that's in our way and that's how we're approaching it.''
Reporter to LeBron: “Vogel kept saying last night that you guys are just another team.''
LeBron: “We're not just another team. I don't understand what he's saying. But we're not just another team. It's not true.''
Another reporter asked what he said.
LeBron: “He said we're just another team in their way. We're not just another team. We're a great team. We're very confident. We'll be ready for them. But if we're just another team, you really don't prepare for just another team. We're not just another team. You got to be prepared for us.''
A third reporter: “Did your ears perk up when your heard that [from Vogel].''
LeBron: “Absolutely. I'll be ready.' (Via Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida)
Miami is more than just some team simply standing between the Pacers and the NBA Finals. With James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up with a bevy of three-point snipers, they are a great team and have proven it over and over again.
This is the same team that set the record for the second longest winning streak in NBA history this season with 27 games, the same team that has a player who will go on to be one of the greatest to ever play the game and who won the 2012-13 Most Valuable Player award. This is the same team that finished this season with the best record in the NBA.
Vogel’s approach to the series shouldn’t have been dismissive of the Heat. He would have been wise to just go into the book of coach clichés and give his team the respect they earned against the Knicks while not disrespecting a team that is currently 7-1 in the playoffs and has won four in a row.
Now, Vogel did take a step back from his original comments, but the initial sting that resonated in James could be enough to put the reigning MVP in another zone.
"Sorry sports world, the words 'just another team' never came out of my mouth," he said. "Great respect for LBJ and the champs. Looking forward to [a] great series." (Via NBA.com)
Although James, and the reporter who asked him the initial question, misinterpreted Vogel’s quote, it doesn’t change the fact that the Pacers’ coach made a huge mistake in choosing his words in the post-game interview after Game 6 against New York.
This series may be over before it even starts. An inspired LBJ is the last things the Pacers want to see, but that is exactly what they coach has gotten them.