Miami Beach, Florida: All LeBron James has done so far this year is win the NBA’s MVP award for the third time, an NBA Finals MVP trophy to go along with that one, his elusive first championship and a second Olympic gold medal.
And Dwyane Wade thinks his Miami Heat teammate is just getting started.
With the start of Heat’s training camp now just six weeks away, Wade said on Friday that he expects James to be even better this coming season now that the will-he-ever-win-a-championship question has been forever put to rest.
“That monkey is off his back and now he’s just playing basketball,” Wade said while taking a break from his annual fantasy camp, where fans pay up to $12,500 (Dh45,912) to get a four-day luxury taste of NBA life.
“I think we’ll see a better LeBron James — scary to say, three-time MVP — than we’ve seen. And it’s because all he has to do is play basketball now. He doesn’t have to worry about what he hasn’t done. It’ll always be something, but he’s got the biggest one off his back.”
Wade was a James fan instead of a James teammate this summer, when the US men’s basketball team won its second straight Olympic gold. Wade could not play while recovering from knee surgery, but was in London for part of the Olympic tournament, and he said James made playing at a high level — such as a triple-double against Australia in the quarter-final — seem ‘effortless.’
It’s been that way for a while, too. Going back to Miami’s win-or-go-home Game six in Boston of the Eastern Conference finals, James has played in 20 games with the Heat and for USA Basketball. In those, his teams are 19-1, with the lone loss being Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City.
Four straight wins to close that title series, then five straight exhibition victories with the US team, then an 8-0 Olympic record — 17 straight wins in all.
“He’s on an amazing run,” Wade said. “When you’re on these kind of runs, you enjoy it. You keep going because you don’t know when it’s going to stop. I think he’s just enjoying it right now. He’s doing all this stuff without thinking about it. He’s breaking records. He’s in the history books. He’s not thinking about it, he’s just doing it. He’s at a gear that I’ve seen myself at before when it just feels easy. He’s just a gear above everyone.”