Sports Illustrated announced Monday that the Heat’s LeBron James is gracing the cover of their 2012 Sportsman of the Year issue.
King James put another gem in his crown for the year, adding the honor to his NBA championship, Olympic gold medal, and league and Finals MVP awards.
He hasn’t had a chance to sit down and think about the magnitude of the additions to his résumé in such a short period of time.
“Anything in life that’s worth having, is worth working for and going through trials and tribulations,” James said at the Heat’s practice on Monday.
“It’s much sweeter at the end of the road when you have to actually work for it and go through hardships.”
From his oft-criticized departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, to a rocky start with the Heat in 2011, this honor defines the leader James has become.
“It’s pretty amazing to see the difference from one year to the next,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He behaved himself similarly both years, but it took a championship and the hardware for other people to view him with a different lens.”
Receiving the award, James, 27, joins the ranks of greats such as Wayne Gretzky and Arthur Ashe.
Closer to home, James is welcomed by Dwyane Wade, who took the honor after the Heat’s 2006 championship.
Upon hearing the news, Wade said: “It was ‘welcome LeBron James. We’ve been awaiting your arrival.’”
Wade added that the honor symbolizes how James has been able to reinvent himself on and off the court.
Meanwhile, on the court, the reigning champions have had a choppy start to their season despite holding a 12-3 record. Mental lapses and early struggles have forced the Heat to rally several times this season.
On Thursday, the Heat had to mount a late comeback to beat the San Antonio Spurs, who were without starters Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and key reserves Manu Ginobli and Danny Green. Ray Allen’s three-pointer in the final minute paved the way for a 105-101 win, avoiding an embarrassing upset at home to the undermanned Spurs.
Two days later, the Heat had another sluggish start against the Brooklyn Nets, falling behind by 14 points in the fist half. But Miami rallied again, this time behind Wade’s 34-point effort for a 102-89 victory.
Spoelstra credit the win over the Nets to the Heat’s improved communication.
“You have to work at it; you have to make a conscious effort to talk to each other and to communicate even if it’s not always positive what you’re saying,” Spoelstra said Monday.
“Sometimes communication is correction, and you have to be able to speak honestly to each other.”
During Monday’s practice, the team focused on correcting mental mistakes, including taking care of the ball and improving discipline on defense.
“I think for whatever reason when we get down, or we’re in a situation where the game is on the line, we turn it up defensively,” Udonis Haslem said. “I think we’ve got to start the game with defensive intensity and a defensive mind-set. That’ll carry over to finishing games and playing better quarters.”
Haslem said the character of the season’s team is similar the one that one the NBA championship in 2006. That team also had a pattern of comeback victories.
“[We] would be down the majority of the game, and then we’d defend toward the end in games that we probably should have been winning from the beginning. But that’s a bad habit.” he said.
The Heat travels to Washington to play the Wizards on Tuesday, and Spoelstra wants his team to focus on eliminating mental mistakes.
“We know we’re not a team, or we hope we’re not a team that’s reached its ceiling,” he said. “We have to improve; the competition has gotten better. You play a regular season for a reason. You try to prepare yourself for that second season as much as you can.”