LeBron James won't lack for motivation
MIAMI — It was easy for LeBron James to find motivation last season. All he had to do was think about the debacle that was the 2011 Finals and the LeBron haters who were on every street corner.
But now? James, in many circles, has traded in his black hat for a white one. The Miami Heat star won his first title and then played a very unselfish role in leading Team USA to another Olympic gold medal.
So what's James to do? What will the forward use for motivation this season?
"I'm not satisfied with my career, what I've done so far," James said when asked that question Friday at media day at AmericanAirlines Arena. "I've accomplished a lot of things, a lot of goals, but I'm not satisfied with that. But I'll continue to get better, continue to lead this team the best way I know how, continue to add more pieces to my game."
James is not being too specific about what will fuel him this season. It might be too new for him that he's doing well in opinion polls.
James got so used to being disliked after his infamous 2010 "The Decision" show and after he fell apart in fourth quarters of the 2011 Finals, when the Heat lost 4-2 to Dallas. James talked plenty about how that drove him last season, when he was a landslide choice for NBA MVP.
If James needs any motivational tactics, perhaps he can talk with Shane Battier. The Heat forward scoffs at the notion James mostly has quieted critics.
"There's still plenty of doubters out there," Battier said. "It was a fluke. It was a lockout-shortened season. They'll come out with a myriad of excuses. If there's one guy that nobody has to worry about being motivated, that's LeBron."
James' charge this season should be continuing to carve his place in history. With three MVP trophies, another would put him with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six), Michael Jordan (five), Bill Russell (five) and Wilt Chamberlain (four) as the only players to have won four or more.
And while James might not admit it publicly, he knows all the truly great players won multiple rings. Among perimeter legends, Jordan collected six and Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant have five apiece.
"LeBron has a great sense of legacy, not only his own personal legacy, but this team's legacy," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, whose Heat begin training camp Saturday. "This team was built for something bigger than just making a one-year run at it. ...(James is an) ultimate competitor. The ultimate competitors, the great ones, the historic ones, get greedy.
"They want to add more success and winning and championships. They don't soften them, they steal them. ... Michael Jordan, the great ones, find a way to continue to reinvent themselves, continue to remotivate themselves to go to another level. He may surprise us again this year."
It will be hard for James to surpass what he did last season. He averaged 27.1 points, a career-high 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists while shooting a career-best 53.1 percent. He was even better in the playoffs, when he averaged 30.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.
James was asked several times Friday what he will do for continued motivation. While he claims to not be satisfied yet, he at least can think back to the contentment he had holding the Larry O'Brien Trophy following a 4-1 Finals win over Oklahoma City.
"When you set a goal and work hard at it and you're finally able to accomplish that goal," James said. “When it's all over and done and you have to start over, you're kind of like, ‘Wow. I'd kind of hope to have that feeling again.' It went by so fast with the celebration and us in the locker room."
With talk about how he must start over and how it all went by so fast, James knows we live in an instant-gratification society. In LeBron's world, it is indeed, "What have you done lately?"
“For now, it's taken a little pressure off him, but not too much," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said of James having finally won a championship in his ninth season. “He's expected to do amazing things. I'm glad I don't have that pressure. He has, I think, taken that monkey off his back and it lets him play the game a little easier. But he has higher goals and everybody has higher goals for him to do amazing things."
Of course, some of the pressure on James is his own doing. Even though he was stating the obvious, James did say Friday, “I've thought that for a long time, that I'm the best player (in the world)."
Right now, it's not even close. For that reason, maybe James doesn't need any special motivational techniques this season. The way he's been playing, maybe he only needs to make sure his car doesn't run out of gas on the way to the arena.
It's hard to believe James is only 27. He's just entering his prime.
"When I look at him, it's almost scary as great as he is and he's still getting better, which is crazy," said Heat forward Udonis Haslem. "He's a guy who's not afraid to work on his weaknesses. He's not afraid to try different things. The sky's going to be the limit."
Actually, James already has reached the sky. Now, we'll see what he might do to get to the stratosphere.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson