Cameras and microphones are spread all over, and Dwyane Wade is before them now, talking about the Heat’s bench and Erik Spoelstra and what it is like to be a father. LeBron James, alone and tucked behind the curtains nearby, waiting his turn to feed the media beast Saturday afternoon, is bored and tired. Tired of these questions. Tired of this noise. Tired, period. He spreads his body stiffly across five uncomfortable chairs, on his back, closes his eyes and waits for his chance to make all the questions go away. Three more victories. That’s all it’ll take now. Win three more games, and everything changes. It doesn’t much matter what he says after that, or what anyone else does. Three more victories.
What has your life been like the past two years, LeBron?
He laughs at the question. He is walking back to the locker room now, having cut short his bored media responsibility when asked what part of his game needs improvement in this series. “Everything,” he said. “Appreciate it.” Then he got up and walked off. But now, in the bowels of the arena, he gives a head nod and a “What’s up, KD?” to Kevin Durant as he passes him in the hallway, and he laughs at the very idea of what his life has been like these past two years.
“You ever been to an amusement park?” he says. “That’s what my life has been like. Twists and turns. Up and down. Uh-oh, here we go, the roller-coaster is going into the dark hole again. Where’s the light? There’s the light. Up and down. Back into the dark hole. Back in the light. That’s what my life has been like.”
He can see the light again from here. Only Durant, three-time scoring champion at the age of 23, stands between LeBron and the light.
Are you tougher, LeBron, given the past two years? He won’t bite on that. He shrugs his giant shoulders and makes a face like he’s chewing something sour. The easy answer would be, yes, I’m tougher. That’s not the route LeBron goes.
“The best teacher in life is experience,” he says. “What I am, more than anything, is comfortable and prepared. I’m more prepared. I’ve been through everything. There is nothing I can see that is going to surprise me. I’m more prepared. Mentally and physically.”
This is what confidence sounds like — a great student who has studied for even the biggest test does not fear surprises — but it isn’t what we saw from him last time he was in this spot, unfamiliar and uncomfortable, a sports giant shrinking before everyone’s eyes. It is the reason Miami lost at the very end last year … because LeBron James, not trusting himself, not trusting his excellence, not trusting the unfamiliar nature of this new team and new experience and new test, didn’t play to his averages. That’s all Miami needed, his average performance, but he didn’t provide it, and America spent the summer laughing at him. But he announced at the start of these playoffs, after the very first game, that he is a different player and person this year, and then he has gone out and proved it every game since in a way that left at least one Boston Celtics player awed.
“Our team was built to last,” Celtics guard Keyon Dooling says. “Experience, togetherness, will, drive. We peaked at the right time. We had the right group of guys together …”