MIAMI — There’s an old Eveready commercial in which tough-guy actor Robert Conrad places a battery on his shoulder and declares, “I dare you to knock this off.’’
LeBron James has a similar attitude now about his talent. And he let that be known Wednesday on the eve of the NBA Finals.
James challenges anybody to attempt to stop him. Go ahead, try.
“I’m a better player,’’ the Miami Heat forward said when asked to compare himself now to when his Cleveland Cavaliers were swept 4-0 by San Antonio in the 2007 Finals. “And you can’t dare me to do anything I don’t want to do in 2013.”
That was a series in which the Spurs forced James to take outside shots and he clanged them. But when these Finals get underway Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena against San Antonio, James doesn’t believe there’s anything he can’t do.
James is brimming with confidence these days. It certainly helps that he recently was handed his second straight MVP trophy and fourth out of the last five. But a bigger reason is James now has a ring on his finger.
This is James’ fourth Finals, but the first one he enters after having already won one. James lost with the Heat to Dallas in 2011 before breaking through last year against Oklahoma City.
“Yeah,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade said about the 10-year veteran feeling less pressure now that he’s finally won a title. “After so many years, when you kind of question yourself and doubt am I ever going to win a championship, into finally winning one, it takes a little pressure and stress off you. But he still wants to win another one. So he’s hungry.”
A more-relaxed James is talking a bigger game than he has before previous Finals. Of course, he also knows he has a team that can help back it up.
The Heat went 66-16 during the regular season with a 27-game winning streak, and James recently called them a “great team.” OK, they had to go to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals to beat Indiana, but there never seemed to be any doubt from the confident James they would win.
“That’s what I’m here for,” James said of trying now to become a multiple-title winner. “I’m here to win championships. … I’ve lost enough. I don’t need any more fuel from losing. I’ve lost two Finals.”
What’s fueling James now is to be among the all-time greats when it comes to winning. He’s already there when it comes to his talent, being one of just five players in history to have claimed four or more MVP awards.
A win over the Spurs would be another big step for James. They’ve won four of the previous 14 NBA titles, and big man Tim Duncan is still around. There’s no way James wants to see Duncan get a fifth ring while he remains stuck at one.
“He’s had a taste,” Heat forward Udonis Haslem said of James. “He knows what it feels like to be a champion and he wants to do it again, and he’s more motivated.”
James came back an even better player this season both offensively and defensively. Considering Miami coach Erik Spoelstra calls him “one through five,” a reference to guarding every position on the floor, he certainly could check Spurs point guard Tony Parker during the Finals. Heck, he might even guard Duncan.
James’ outside shot continues to get better. He had career bests during the season in field-goal (56.5) and 3-point percentage (40.6).
“If you go into my pick-and-roll now, I’m going to shoot,” James said. “And I’m confident I’m going to make every last one of them.”
So go ahead, dare James to do anything in this series.