Ethan J. Skolnick

LeBron’s ‘secret motivation’ to win NBA Finals? It’s a familiar face

LeBron James holds his NBA Most Valuable Player award as he stands with Miami Heat team president Pat Riley in 2013.
LeBron James holds his NBA Most Valuable Player award as he stands with Miami Heat team president Pat Riley in 2013. AP/File 2013

LeBron James wouldn't reveal it.

Trust me, I tried — several times. I was covering the Cleveland Cavaliers quite a bit last season for Bleacher Report and, when James revealed during the NBA Finals that he had a "secret motivation," I scrambled to learn what it was.

The people around him were cryptic, but I had a sense it had something to do with one of two things — either his frustration that Stephen Curry was starting to get more attention, or his desire to prove something to Pat Riley. The latter guess was based on some conversations that I had with him and others during the course of the season. Even though James took the high road publicly, he was interested in what Riley was saying about him in Miami, specifically the "smiling faces with hidden agendas" comment in Riley's April 2015 press conference.

I tried again when James appeared as a guest on Bleacher Report Radio in July 2015, as he was regrouping from losing the NBA Finals to the Warriors.

He laughed but wouldn't give it away.

“I’m still waiting to win. The motivation has not stopped. Once the postseason starts, if we’re fortunate to get to the postseason, I think we can, we have a great team, that motivation will kick back in."

Well, now, after he won a title with the Cavaliers, it appears the secret is out.

ESPN reporter Dave McMenamin revealed that the motivation came when James left Miami. James told him, “I'm not gonna name names, but someone told me that “You’re making the biggest mistake of your career.’”

That statement “really hurt him,” McMenamin added.

That really can't be anyone but Riley. It certainly wasn't Dwyane Wade. It's not Erik Spoelstra's style, nor Andy Elisburg's, nor even Micky Arison's. And he and others — like Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem — remained close.

So you can say Riley has won another ring, if you want, by inspiring James.

Or you can just give James the credit for being a transcendent player who has proven one of his points.

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