LeBron James Talks Mental Health, Says He Lost 'Love for the Game' in 2011

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 08:  LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on December 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said Tuesday he realized after the 2011 NBA Finals while a member of the Miami Heat that he needed to focus more on his mental fitness.

James told ESPN's Dave McMenamin he endured a serious mental toll after the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

"The level of scrutiny that I was dealing with, and how I got out of my comfort zone. I lost my love for the game," he said.

James took on the role of NBA villain after he announced during a nationally televised special called "The Decision" in July 2010 that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Heat to create a superteam alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

In December 2011, the Ohio native acknowledged to ESPN's Rachel Nichols (via Tom Weir of USA Today) he handled the situation poorly:

"If I could look back on it I would probably change a lot of it. The fact of having a whole TV special, and people getting the opportunity to watch me make a decision on where I wanted to play, I probably would change that. Because I can now look and see if the shoe was on the other foot and I was a fan, and I was very passionate about one player, and he decided to leave, I would be upset too about the way he handled it."

James also hinted toward the mental toll that took: "I started to play the game of basketball at a level or in a mind state that I had never played at before. I mean angry. That's mentally, and that's not the way I play the game of basketball."

James won a pair of titles with the Heat in 2012 and 2013, but it wasn't until he returned to the Cavs and led Cleveland to its first title in 2016 that fan sentiment started moving back in his favor. That also allowed him to leave the organization for a second time to join the Lakers without nearly as much backlash.

Now, the 34-year-old four-time MVP is bringing his own mental health into the spotlight as he attempts to guide a third franchise to a championship. After a forgettable first year of the LeBron era in L.A., the Lakers are tied for the best record in the NBA at 21-3 after the offseason addition of Anthony Davis.

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