Heat's James not slowing down after huge year
BY TIM REYNOLDS Associated Press
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
12/25/12 at 4:54 AM
MIAMI - Pat Riley has a theory why LeBron James' journey to basketball's mountaintop took so long.
Growth, he said, takes time.
"I always use the analogy of the Chinese bamboo tree," said the Miami Heat president. "You plant the seed in the ground and it just sits there and 10 years later it grows 100 feet in one year. Over the 10 years, there's a root structure and a taproot that is growing deeper and deeper and deeper and is embedded in the ground. And when that thing starts growing, it ain't going anywhere but up."
That is, much like James did in 2012.
It was practically a year beyond compare. James got his first NBA championship, was the league's MVP for the third time, a unanimous choice as MVP of the NBA Finals, and collected a second Olympic gold medal. And in perhaps the last marquee moment of his year, James and the Heat play host to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, a Finals rematch on Christmas.
James will be center stage with the Heat-Thunder showdown part of the NBA's Christmas slate of nationally televised games.
No NBA player did anything in 2012 that matched what James put together.
No longer uncomfortable with the fallout for the way he exercised his right in 2010 to choose his own future, he enjoyed a year loaded with triumphs. James allowed himself to be in the public eye more, heard booing in most road arenas return to normal levels and insists he's as content as ever.
"I'm driven," James said, "by something greater."
He has money. He would figure to contend for several more championships if he remains healthy. He has enormous fame. He is on top of his game and in his prime. The 27-year-old James is averaging 25.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists and the Heat are leading the Eastern Conference with an 18-6 record.
What's left is legacy, him attempting to ensure he truly becomes one of the greatest.
"You look at some of the greatest companies," James said. "As great as McDonald's is, they don't stop. As great as Nike is, they don't stop. They keep trying to be innovative and make new, great things for consumers. They don't stop. They could. They've got enough. I look at that as well, as motivation. I want to keep getting better. I want to put myself in position to maximize every little thing that I have."
Those around him see that drive.
"He's still hungry and thirsty for more," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And I think that's what separates the great ones and the ultimate competitors. He came off of a historic year, able to win the MVP and crown it with the ultimate team goal. ... He wants to continue to reinvent himself, get better and drive this team, push this team for a bigger legacy than just a one-title team."
James often says he is "humbled" by awards or praise. Never did he feel more humble in 2012.
His first act of the year - moments after midnight on Jan. 1 - was proposing to girlfriend Savannah Brinson. The way James sees it, that move on bended knee set the tone for everything else to fall into place.
"Can you propose twice?" James asked. "Can I do that again to get another year like this?"
He can't. But he would.
Original Print Headline: James not slowing down after big year
Miami's LeBron James is fifth in the NBA in scoring at 25.4 points a game and also averages 8.5 rebounds per game. ALAN DIAZ / Associated Press