MIAMI — Many champions are self-motivated, yet soak up the words of people they respect.
It’s hard to believe there was anyone better to address the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat for a little pep talk at their first mainland practice than Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The undefeated boxing champion spoke to the Heat during their Sunday morning practice at the American Airlines Arena. His words landed like a right cross.
“With him being 17 years and 0 . . . we’re trying to defend two titles, he’s been defending for a long time,” forward LeBron James said. “So he definitely knows where we’re coming from.”
“It’s different when you’re the champ in boxing — you’re the baddest man on the planet,” guard Dwyane Wade said. “There are other sports teams that have won … but there’s only one champion in boxing.”
The Heat got back to work after last week’s training camp in the Bahamas. Mayweather joined owner Micky Arison in welcoming the team on their practice facility at the Triple-A.
Wade, owner of three championship rings, said he appreciated Mayweather’s message.
“From one champion to another, he just talked about him being proud at how we handled ourselves,” Wade said. “He knows as a champion how hard it is to go out there every night and compete when someone’s trying to take you down and take what what you worked for.”
The Heat, in perhaps the Big Three’s final go-round, are expected to face increased competition as they aim for a third straight title. The Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls are among the Eastern Conference foes who figure to contend.
But like Mayweather, the Heat are champs until beaten.
“He’s in the same situation we’re in,” forward/center Chris Bosh said. “They talk about his age, they talk about can he stay on top, mental fatigue and all that crap. He just continues to do what he does best. And we’re trying to do the same thing.”
The Heat prepared for an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday night at the arena with fans in the house. Miami will begin its preseason slate at home Monday night against the Atlanta Hawks.
“We haven’t been on the main court in a long time,” Bosh said. “The last time we were there we made some great memories. So, it’s for the fans to get the opportunity to see what we’ve been working on, to see us again . . . it’s a great way to get started.”
Those “great memories” of winning Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs are just that, according to coach Erik Spoelstra.
“We’ve already gotten seven practices in,” Spoelstra said. “Last year is gone — we’re not even thinking about that.”
While most of last year’s team returns, there’s still work to be done. Wade and James said they were trying to get their legs. Newcomer center Greg Oden and free-agent forward Michael Beasley want to show they’re ready to join the rotation. Who will replace departed sharpshooter Mike Miller?
“It continues to be an extremely competitive training camp,” Spoelstra said. “I liken it to our training camp at the Air Force base (in 2010, the first year of the Big Three). It has that type of intensity and you can make the case that there’s more competitive battles at each position and a little bit more depth.”