Only one thing on LeBron James' mind: Win another ring
MIAMI -- LeBron James has had his game face on even when he's not playing. Wearing a serious, focused look, James had no interest in looking back on his past failures on the NBA's grandest stage.
James' singular mission in this year's NBA Finals is to make sure he doesn't feel that frustration and disappointment again.
"I've lost enough,'' James said before Game 1 against the Spurs Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. "I don't need any more fuel from losing. I've lost two Finals. So I don't need any more fuel from losing the Finals.''
James, who had 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the first half Thursday night, led the Heat to the NBA championship last season, his first title in a remarkable career that some predict could end with him being considered the greatest player of all time. But to get there, he has to win more here.
This is his fourth Finals appearance and third straight. Miami lost in 2011 to Dallas. James' first trip was in 2007, when his Cleveland Cavaliers were swept by these Spurs.
Much has been made about that series and the hug and exchange between James and Spurs great Tim Duncan after Game 4 in Cleveland. Duncan was heard saying to James, "This is going to be your league in a little while. I appreciate you giving us this year.''
The two then laughed and James walked away. But when it was brought up and described as a cool moment, James didn't agree. "It's cool for you guys,'' he said. "It wasn't cool for me.''
James was asked what Duncan's words meant to him, and continued to be terse.
"It's however you take it,'' James said. "He had just won and I just lost. I didn't remember too much about it until I seen the footage once again.''
The whole experience helped James become the NBA's best player and ultimately led him to Miami.
The Spurs exposed weaknesses in James' game and in the Cavs' as a whole. They were a one-man show. James realized he would need much more help in order to win a title. He eventually teamed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in hopes of winning multiple rings.
"That's what I play the game for -- to win championships,'' he said. "I'm here to win championships. You're not always going to be on the successful side. I've seen it twice, not being on the successful side.''
But James also understood he had to change some things about his game.
He always was an explosive player who saw the floor well and could set up his teammates. But the Spurs, in 2007, went under the pick-and-rolls and forced James to the sideline and to shoot jumpers.
Then in his fourth season, James wasn't nearly the outside shooter he is now. He's also developed a post game and is a more complete offensive player, one who can beat you in a variety of ways.
"LeBron is a different player,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He was basically a neophyte at the time, wondering how all this stuff worked and how it's put together. We were very fortunate at that time to get him so early.''
Duncan also feels fortunate to see James again in the Finals because this is the Spurs' first time back since '07.
"I hoped to be back here,'' Duncan said. "Knowing the player that he was then and the trajectory he was on, I had no doubt he would be back here. I had no doubt he would be tops in this league at some point.''
James has gotten there, but he still needs to win another here to be considered the greatest of all time.