x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

James feels the warmth of Miami Heat

The two-time MVP is having a good life in Miami after heartache and controversy throughout last year.

The forward LeBron James, centre, has helped Miami Heat to 16 victories in their last 17 games.
The forward LeBron James, centre, has helped Miami Heat to 16 victories in their last 17 games.

Given the opportunity, LeBron James says he would change countless things about 2010.

Losing to Boston in the play-offs. How his infamous "decision" to leave Cleveland was executed. The fraying of some long relationships with the Cavaliers.

But regrets?

None, the two-time MVP said, looking back on the year unlike any other in his life - and looking ahead to 2011, a year the Miami forward hopes to have defined by a championship instead of controversy.

"It absolutely was a good year," James said while relaxing alongside the Heat practice court. "I don't regret any decision that I've made and I'm happy where I am now. I think my family, my friends, they're all excited with my new beginning. And I definitely am."

He meant that in many different ways. Business-wise, while studies suggested his "Q Score" - the measure of how something or someone appeals to a broad audience - took a big hit over the off-season, sales of his new Miami jersey and his latest line of Nike sneakers are booming.

Personally, some of those who have known him best say he is as happy as he has been in years.

And on the basketball court, the Heat are soaring.

Winners in 16 of their last 17 games, the Heat will take a 25-9 record into 2011, and have many people around the NBA saying they are playing as well as any team in the league, maybe better. All the negativity after a 9-8 start seems long forgotten.

"Overall, where we're at now is what I envisioned," James said. "Did I envision our tough times early on? Not to that extent. I knew we would have some bumps along the road, but to the extent where we were at? I don't think any of us expected that. No one here in Miami or no one in the league expected us to have these trials and tribulations. But it made us who were are today, going into 2011."

In other words, the Heat have collectively taken a similar road as James has taken personally over the past 12 months.

A year ago, he was still expecting to deliver on his promise of bringing a title to Cleveland, even as speculation swirled about his plans for free agency on July 1.

The opinions and predictions were everywhere - he was going to New York, to Chicago, to the Clippers, staying in Cleveland.

Everyone, it seemed, "knew" what he was going to do. Everyone, that is, except James himself.

While many suspect otherwise, James still says he did not make his decision until the morning of July 8, announcing it to the world about 12 hours later in a televised special that raised US$4 million (Dh14.69m) for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America - along with the ire of millions who watched it live.

"He can take this year, for the rest of his life and the rest of his career, and look at it as a stepping stone for him as a basketball player and as a man," Dwyane Wade, the Heat guard, said. "He was on a team projected to win a championship, was the MVP and then everything came crashing down real fast. So he had to make a tough decision."

James said he loves Miami, but it is still not home. It will not replace Akron, where his mother and children still reside most of the time.

But James said he is growing comfortable with his new surroundings and is settling in at his $9m house.

"It's getting better as the days go on," James said. "Honestly, I like to relax. Most of the time I sit at home, just chill, enjoy the weather. That's definitely a good time to reflect, sit outside and enjoy what Miami has to offer."

Erik Spoelstra, the Heat coach, began enjoying what James had to offer this summer. They talked about anything and everything, though largely not about basketball.

Spoelstra wanted to know what made him tick. He wasn't surprised by much of what he learned, except perhaps one thing.

"He's the first one," Spoelstra said. "In training camp, he was the first player at breakfast, usually is the first player to get to the arena.

"He likes extra time to prepare. Everything we do, he likes to arrive early. He takes this very seriously."