After the Game 6 loss to Dallas last June, James said, All the people that were rooting for me to fail, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before they woke up today.
A year later, Dwyane Wade said James is a totally different player.
What changed? Hes playing aggressive, Wade said. When he puts his head down to go to the rim, you have no other choice but to foul him or hes going to finish. Hes playing aggressive, and thats the difference in our team. [When] I see LeBron James, I see the best and most dominating player in the world.
Besides the change in mindset, James has expanded his game by becoming more proficient at posting up opponents with his back to the basket. Former legendary center Hakeem Olajuwon gave James a three-day post-up tutorial last summer and the two men have spoken three times during the playoffs.
He asked me if Ive been watching the film and tells me to continue to do what Ive been doing and that staying in the post will get you buckets, James said. And he also tells me to continue to have fun. Thats the thing he noticed with me this year.
These Finals have been framed as a battle between the best two players in the sport James and Oklahoma Citys Kevin Durant. Though Durant has averaged one point per game more than James in the series, James has outplayed him in virtually every other area.
Im a historian of the game, and this reminded me of the 1991 Finals between the Bulls and Lakers, James said. The whole world was so excited to finally see Michael Jordan versus Magic Johnson in the Finals. They really didnt care about the Lakers and the Bulls it was all about Magic and Jordan. Thats what it was about coming into this series. Everyone was excited to finally get an opportunity to see two of the best players go head-to-head myself and K.D.
Keep in mind that Jordan did not win the first of his six championships until age 28. If James and the Heat finish off the Thunder, James would win his first title at 27.
James already has achieved at least two feats Jordan did not: He has scored at least 25 points in 14 consecutive playoff games (equaling a record he set in 2008 and 09) and on Tuesday night became the first player in NBA history with at least 650 points, 200 rebounds and 100 assists in a postseason.
Its so obvious how great he is, ESPN analyst and Hall of Fame player Chris Mullin said Wednesday. One of the greatest players of all time.
If James feels the pressure of the moment, he is doing a good job of concealing it. Pressure? I havent really felt it that much, said James, who lost in the Finals in 2007 with Cleveland and 2011 with the Heat. Last year, it was much more than it is today. I remember being in Game 5 last year with the series tied at 2-2, it just felt more pressure, felt like it was more people here. Im just more comfortable.