LeBron James won three Eastern Conference titles, two NBA titles and two MVP awards in his first three seasons with the Miami Heat. He is the undisputed leader of the two-time defending champs. No matter what happens this season, his legacy in Miami is secure.
With the confidence of a man who knows his place in history, James turned his thoughts once more to that difficult first season in Miami. Both he and the Heat struggled that season under the enormous weight of expectations and widespread public anger.
In an interview with NBA TV's Steve Smith, James admitted that he and his teammates had doubts about their decision to join forces in Miami during that first tumultuous season:
My mind the whole year, I was not who...that wasn't the guy who fell in love with the game of basketball. It wasn't. I could feel it like every single game, I just felt like it was so heavy on me. All the games on the road, being booed, the aura around us was just so bad.
At one point in the season, we was [sic] 9-8. We weren't playing good basketball. We were out of sync. And me and Dwyane Wade were looking at each other like, 'Did we make the right choice, man?'
Here is a preview of the interview, courtesy of NBA TV. The interview will air in its entirety during All-Star weekend, Feb. 14 through 16.
It should come as no surprise that James struggled under the pressure following his infamous 2010 "The Decision" broadcast on ESPN. The 2010-11 Heat were vilified like few other teams in American professional sports history.
And no group of teammates has ever faced more pressure to win a title in their first season together.
The 2010-11 Heat made it all the way to the NBA Finals before they were upset by the underdog Dallas Mavericks in six games. Most of the world's basketball fans rejoiced in Miami's defeat, and a team that won the Eastern Conference in its first year together was seen as a massive disappointment.
Michael C. Jones of Yahoo! Sports ranked that 2010-11 Heat squad as one of the ten most disappointing "super teams" in sports history:
The infamous "decision" cost LeBron James his squeaky-clean reputation and created a mountain of hatred against the Miami Heat. The dancing introduction and fog machine antics further cemented the Heat as public enemy No. 1 outside of Miami.
It all ended with an unceremonious NBA Finals exit at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, who won the series, 4-2. James in particular was relatively unimpressive in the playoffs, posting averages of 23.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists after averaging 26.7-7.5-7.0 during the regular season.
But James has clearly made his peace with the ghosts of 2010-11. He vanquished the doubters by winning his first title in 2012, and he led his Heat to victory in perhaps the greatest NBA Finals of all time in 2013.
No matter what happens in the 2014 playoffs, James will be faced with another decision in the offseason, thanks to the early termination option in his contract. He can become a free agent, or he can stay in Miami.
Given all the upheaval he caused the last time he changed teams, and his comfortable position right now, he isn't likely to leave South Beach any time soon.