LeBron James answers questions from the media next to the...

LeBron James answers questions from the media next to the Larry O'Brien Finals Championship trophy during his post game press conference. (June 21, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

As the confetti lay all over the AmericanAirlines Arena court, LeBron James wore a champagne-soaked oversized T-shirt, had his arm around a reporter and wore a smile wider than any he had ever showed in his NBA career.

After his last game last year, he wore a scowl, was defiant and said people rooting against him now had to go back to their own lives and personal problems.

That's the difference between winning and losing, but there also was a big difference in James this year.

Throughout the postseason -- which ended Thursday night with Miami winning the championship by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games -- James took accountability for his actions last year, his uninspiring play against Dallas in the Finals and his behavior after the series ended. It was a side of James few in the public had seen before. After winning his first NBA championship and being named Finals MVP, he showed a new one: humility.

"The best thing that happened to me last year was us losing the Finals and me playing the way I played," James said. "It was the best thing to ever happen to me in my career because basically I got back to the basics. It humbled me. I knew what it was going to have to take, and I was going to have to change as a basketball player, and I was going to have to change as a person to get what I wanted.

"It happened just one year later."

As ill-conceived as "The Decision" was, along with the way James bolted Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, it's too soon to know whether he's changed anything in the court of public opinion. But on the basketball court, he has proved he has no equal.

He outplayed all the All-Stars he and the Heat faced during Miami's 23-game postseason, including Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and finally Kevin Durant.

James averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists in the playoffs and 28.6, 10.2 and 7.4 in the Finals. He ended his masterful postseason with a triple-double in the clincher, joining Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, James Worthy and Tim Duncan as the only players since 1985 to have one in the championship-winning game.

Suddenly the guy who was charged with not being able to finish or come up big on the biggest stage was huge, closing out the Thunder to win his first ring. It's time for the narrative to change, and James changed much of it himself.

"It took me to go all the way to the top and then hit rock-bottom basically to realize what I needed to do as a professional athlete and as a person," he said. "I'm just happy that I was able to be put back in this position.

"I trusted my instincts, I trusted my habits that I built over the years, and I just got back to just being myself, and I didn't care too much about what anyone said about me. I just kind of made my own path but did it the right way, and I'm happy I was able to do it the right way and do it for myself and not for anyone else."

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