NBA Q&A: LeBron James

Posted by Unknown on Monday, October 28, 2013 with No comments
Courtesy of David Aldridge

Me: What does this feel like, when you and the team have established yourselves, and there's no longer having to prove yourself at the highest level?
LeBron James: Well, it's still a challenge. Everybody wants what we've been able to accomplish the last two years. So every time we go out we have to be mentally focused, every single night, no matter who we're going against, whether they're at the top of the conference or the bottom of the conference. So it's very challenging. But I think that's what keeps the competitive spirits going. It's great to know that every game you go into, you've got to work for it.
Me: You've played so much basketball the last three years, with the consecutive Finals appearances and the Olympic obligations. Do you have to pace yourself this year?
LBJ: It's hard for me to say, because once I step out on the floor, I get at it. And also, during practice, I'm one of the leaders of this team, and I feel the example that you set in practice sets it up for everything. So it's kind of up to Spo. Spo will have to tell me to sit down, unless I'm injured or hurt, and I feel like I need a day or so. But if I think I can go, I'm going to be on the floor, during practice, during shootarounds, and also during the games.
Me: Are you officially in for '16? The Olympics?
LBJ: No, I'm not officially in, just yet. But hopefully, I can be healthy enough and on top of my game at that point where I'll be taken.
Me: I don't think you have to worry about that.
LBJ: Hopefully.
Me: How has "the noise," as Spoelstra calls it -- the unceasing interest in you and the Heat and everything you all do -- toughened you mentally?
LBJ: Well, there's nothing that can come upon us that can surprise us, or shock us -- or something like, we didn't see that coming. We've experienced everything. And "the noise," as we call it, we've done a great job of keeping it away from the locker room or keeping it away from what we're trying to do. The ultimate goal is to play basketball, and to win games every single night, and to compete at a high level. We've done a great job, every individual, and then as a collective group, just trying to make sure the noise doesn't get to us.
Me: Jordan and Bird were always aware that, no matter how they were feeling on a given night, when they got to the arena, there was someone there who had never seen them play in person, and wasn't likely to ever see them again after that night. Do you feel that responsibility when you play every night?
LBJ: Absolutely. I feel like being one of the, I don't know, one of the best players in the world, one of the leaders, one of the biggest role models in our sport, I feel like I have a responsibility, if I'm healthy, to go out there and showcase what I'm capable of doing. It's like you said what Bird said, or MJ said. There may be a kid that got a birthday gift. And it was their only gift, to see a Heat game. Hopefully, that night, I can put on a performance for them.
Me: You made a point that while the guys who were traded from Boston to Brooklyn haven't gotten any heat -- no pun -- Ray Allen did for leaving the Celtics last year for Miami. The two situations are obviously different, but what did you mean?
LBJ: I think at the end of the day, no matter who are, if you come to the Heat, you're going to get heat. No pun intended, it's just how it is. You can go play for any other team, any other organization in the world, but if you come to the Heat, you're going to hear it. But at the end of the day, I think what people have to understand is, players have to do what's best for their career, and have to do what's best for their families. Definitely, it's a tough situation at times, especially when you look at Paul (Pierce), who spent his whole career in Boston. And KG, he was able to come there in '08 and kind of change the tradition again, bringing it back to a championship level. But at the end of the day, you have to do what's best for you, and your career. And those guys made that choice, and Doc (Rivers) made that choice, and other guys in our league, and other leagues. Nobody didn't ever think Peyton Manning wouldn't wear a Colts jersey, and he's in Denver. And both sides are excited about the future. So you can't put too much into it. I know there's emotions that go with guys leaving or staying. But for me, I know. I'm the No. 1 guy when it comes to talking about leaving. So I know exactly what comes with it as far as on the court and off the court, and how people are going to view you, and how you're going to be comfortable being in a new place. I think Ray did a good job of doing what was best for him. I don't know the situation with Doc, KG, Paul, and the rest of those guys, but I believe they did the same thing, what was best for them. And I think that's what it comes down to.
Me: Since Pierce, certainly, and KG certainly thought of as Celtics, does that rivalry your team had with Boston transfer to Brooklyn?
LBJ: No. Because with the Boston rivalry, not only were you playing against those guys, you were playing against their fans, too. And there are not too many fans that can compete with Boston. Probably the Palace of Auburn Hills when it was rocking, as far as animosity or hatred. Brooklyn doesn't have that. Obviously, they have great fans, but Boston has that hatred. You kind of inherit not only going against those guys, but you inherit going against those fans as well.
Me: You loved that, didn't you?
LBJ: Absolutely. It's great when you can silence them. It's hard to silence the Garden, I'll tell you that.
Me: What did you do differently this summer in preparation for the season? Time off?
LBJ: It was kind of the same. I usually take a month off right after the season, and then I get right back into it. September was very busy for me, because of the wedding, and a lot of travel, and a lot of things I had to knock out. I did most of my training in late July and August, and I was able to get in everything I wanted to get in. So I feel good. Right now it's the second week of preseason, or what we call training camp, still. So everyone is still getting their legs into it. I'm still getting my legs back into it. It doesn't matter how much working out you do; when you get back on the court, you still have some rust to kick off.
Me: What does being married feel like?
LBJ: You just feel like you're in your bed every day, throughout the whole day. Comfortable. There's no place like home. To have that stability back home, with my wife and my kids, it's a great feeling. No matter what goes on, me playing the game of basketball, win, lose or draw, it makes you kind of ... you're going to be mad about certain games you play. But I feel great when I get home.
Me: Does the second ring feel any different from the first?
LBJ: It just adds more pressure, man. That's all it does. The championship is great, but it goes like this (snaps fingers). And then it's preparing for the next one, or trying to win the next one. I had an opportunity to win it in front of my home fans, and they're yelling and screaming, confetti coming down, and you do the interviews, champagne in the locker room, and you have the celebration in front the fans, as far as outside, in front of the arena, and all the fans come outside. It's great. And then it's like, okay, how do we prepare for next season? It's a great, but it's only like a split-second feeling. But the only thing about it, you're like, I want that feeling again. And that's what motivates me, to get back to having that short burst of excitement, and the greatest feeling you could have.
Me: What did you work on this summer?
LBJ: A little bit of everything. Just honing all of my skills -- shooting, ballhandling, post, everything. Also, you know, leadership. That's the No. 1 thing for me, being there for my teammates, even if I'm not on top of my game. Being able to know that they can count on me, no matter what. And that's what it's all about. It's not about your actions on the floor; it's about off the floor. And it's not about your actions during great times; it's about your actions during bad times, too. 'Cause every team and every player faces adversity, troubled times, during the season. And being able to handle that, being a leader, is how you come back from that.
Me: Did you buy them anything?
LBJ: Did I buy my guys anything? I give them something every day. I give them something all the time. You can ask them what I give them. I give them stuff all the time. I love my teammates.
Me: What do you still get out of playing?
LBJ: The competition. The competition, and the fact that you know that there's so many kids -- for me -- that there's so many kids that look up to you, that think of you as a hero, a superhero, as a role model. Maybe even as a parent. To know that, that keeps me going, makes me go, wow. There may be kids out there that may not have a dad, or may not have a brother that they always wanted. And they look at me as like, he's an extended part of our family. I can't wait to tonight, to see him. It's like, that's my brother, that's my dad playing. To see that you have a role in, I guess, leadership, and people look(ing) up to me. That's fun, man. And also to see my two boys being able to grow and watch their dad play a professional sport, and play at a high level, that's what keeps me going.
Me: Iverson is going to retire at the end of the month, and I know you said that, for you, it was him and MJ growing up that inspired you.
LBJ: Yeah. It was those two guys that I watched, mostly. I started playing basketball, and MJ was at the tip, the highest, at his peak, '95, '96, '97, '98ish, when he came back in '95. When I finally started to feel good about playing basketball, and tried to do it your way, you looked at AI. To see that he's retiring, man, it's like wow. You still feel like he still should be in this league. He's sixth all time in career points per game. Those last few years, you can almost throw them out the window. One thing that we can all say about AI, he gave it everything. He played hurt, he played injured, and he probably was, what, 5-11, a buck sixty at the most? And he gave it his whole heart, man. And I think everybody in Philly, and in the NBA knows what kind of impact he had -- not only on the floor, but off the floor as well. A lot of guys wear arm sleeves and headbands because of Allen Iverson.
Me: Have you watched Game 6 of The Finals?
LBJ: I've seen it a few times.
Me: At 3 a.m., do you ever go, 'How the hell did we win that game?'
LBJ: All the time. I have no idea how we won that game. I think you, as a kid, your Little League coaches would always tell you, finish the game. Finish the game. It's not over until it's triple zero. Or, it's not over until the (fat) lady sings. And when you preach that, and you practice that, you just continue to hone that. You just keep going. And we was able to do that.
Me: Do you allow yourself to go down that road of, what if we had lost that game, and that series, and what that may have meant for you?
LBJ: It definitely came into my mind. I watch that game today, and it's almost like I don't know who won. I'm like, I have butterflies in my stomach, like I don't know who won this game. To sit here, today, with a 2-2 record in The Finals is much better than 1-3, I'll tell you that.