LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers coordinates a play during the game against the Denver Nuggets for the NBA playoffs. (Mark J. Terrill)
Lake Buena Vista – LeBron James wants to beat the Heat. Miami will seek to defeat him.
And no one should be surprised by that apparent rudeness. After all, there is a title at stake.
But those looking for some reason for rivalry that goes beyond sports will be disappointed.
The NBA final series begins this Wednesday night, and the confrontation between James and Miami is configured as little more than a reunion between the members of a society who profess mutual admiration and who will now be rivals in search of a championship .
James is looking to put the Los Angeles Lakers back at the top of basketball, a place they haven't held since 2010. The Heat will try to cap off an astonishing season with their fourth ever title.
“I'm here for a reason and for that reason alone, which is to compete for a championship,” James said on the eve of the first game of what will be his 10th final, during which he chases his fourth ring.
The star was asked a variety of questions about his time in Miami, his opinion of coach Erik Spoelstra and owner Pat Riley. He never took the bait and only expressed affection for the four years he spent in Miami and for the two titles that the Heat won during that period.
“Being a part of that culture allowed me to grow and see what it took not just to compete for a championship, but to win it,” said James. “So that definitely put me in a situation where I knew what was required. I saw what it took. But simultaneously I adapted very well to that culture because of how hard I worked. It was a perfect combination, that of those four years ”.
James left Miami, and is a regular star of the final. It will be his fifth appearance in the series for the title in the past six seasons after his tenure with the Heat.
LeBron James won two NBA championships, his first, with the Miami Heat. (Mike Ehrmann)
Miami had not returned to the final since James left. In that time, the Heat undertook a couple of rebuilding projects and used 60 different players over six seasons.
Also, the Heat witnessed the departure, return and retirement of Dwyane Wade, and the premature end of Chris Bosh's career due to health concerns.
Spoelstra devises a game plan in hopes of limiting James as much as possible. But that doesn't stop the strategist from speaking respectfully about the Lakers' best player.
“I just think that a testament to his greatness is in the way he's been able to sustain this kind of success, one year in and the next,” Spoelstra said. “With different uniforms, different teammates and different teams, this speaks to their commitment. He has seen it all. At this point in his career he only cares about winning, and his ability to do what he does at his age is very rare. But there is a lot of work behind the scenes to continue doing this. “
There are mutual compliments.
“I'm not going to sit here and pretend I don't know what Spo is like,” James said of the coach. “It's damn good, if not great.”