The NBA found a way to make the most boring day of the season interesting.
With no games—and no All-Star events—on the slate for Monday, NBA TV aired LeBron James' candid interview with Steve Smith, which gave an in-depth look at the NBA's greatest superstar from an angle that most of us have never seen before.
Joe Casale put it simply:
Many have already seen one particular part of the interview—James' pick of the four best players of all time, which helped create a "Mount Rushmore" epidemic across the NBA world. But there was so much more, as James opened up completely.
Perhaps the most captivating part of the discussion was James' talk about his transition from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat. From "The Decision" to the infamous pre-season welcome party in which James claimed the Heat would win multiple championships, he instantly became a villain.
Eventually, it all took such a toll on the then-26-year-old that he just accepted the "bad guy" role. But he talked about how uncomfortable he was in that particular role, via NBA TV's Twitter feed:
It wasn't just the, ahem, heat that James was receiving from away crowds, though. His relationship with Dwyane Wade, who had already won a championship before James' arrival, was far from perfect at the onset.
It was "two alpha males going at it," James said during the interview. "There was some clash for sure. I'm surprised we even got to the finals."
Even though he didn't truly expect to win, James said he was still absolutely devastated when the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks, claiming he "looked like Tom Hanks on Cast Away" two weeks after Dirk Nowitzki and Co. hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Much like we all do to fix our problems, though, James and Wade went to the Bahamas, where the long-time Heat star offered to concede his role.
"In order for us to be great, you have to be the guy," Wade said, according to James. "I'll take a step back."
James said that moment changed him, as he "took the villain cape off" and left it in the Bahamas. It's hard to argue with him, considering the Heat are two-for-two in claiming NBA titles since that little vacation.
So now that everything is clicking, what are James' goals? What is the guy with two NBA titles and four MVPs working toward, with the exception of more championships?
James put it simply:
LeBron has made the NBA All-Defensive Team five years in a row, but it hasn't culminated in a Defensive Player of the Year, as the centers—Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard (thrice)—have cleaned up over that time.
As for an individual player who gives him motivation, LeBron unsurprisingly looks to Kevin Durant, who is currently on track to bring home his first MVP award.
"I feel like he's next in line," James said in reference to the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar. "The way he plays the game every single night is inspiring. It's motivating."
James also said the team that motivates him is the East-leading Indiana Pacers, who he says "look just how we looked when we lost to Dallas."
Although finding a way past Frank Vogel's crew in the playoffs for a third year in a row is the priority, another hot-button topic surrounds James' upcoming free agency.
For now, he doesn't see himself leaving Miami:
Really, this all just scratches the surface. Smith does a fantastic job with the interview, and we are able to get a deeper look at James—from established superstar still itching to get better to devoted family man—that we aren't often able to see.
Luckily, if you missed out, NBA TV has you covered:
You won't regret it.
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