James’ growth leads to his­toric year

He has one of best stretches ever by an ath­lete in 2012.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - Bytim Reynolds LYNNE SLADKY / AP FILE

MI­AMI — Pat Ri­ley has a the­ory why LeBron James’ jour­ney to bas­ket­ball’s moun­tain­top took so long.

Growth, he said, takes time.

“I al­ways use the anal­ogy of the Chi­nese bam­boo tree,” said the Mi­ami Heat pres­i­dent. “You plant the seed in the ground and it just sits there and 10 years later it grows 100 feet in one year. Over the 10 years, there’s a root struc­ture and a tap­root that is grow­ing deeper and deeper and deeper and is em­bed­ded in the ground. And when that thing starts grow­ing, it ain’t go­ing any­where but up.”

That is, much like James did in 2012.

It was prac­ti­cally a year be­yond com­pare. James got his first NBA cham­pi­onship, was the league’s MVP for the third time, a unan­i­mous choice as MVP of the NBA Fi­nals, and col­lected a sec­ond Olympic gold medal. And in per­haps the last mar­quee moment of his year, James and the Heat play host to Ok­la­homa City on Tues­day, a Fi­nals re­match on Christ­mas.

James will be cen­ter stage with the HeatThun­der show­down part of the NBA’s Christ­mas slate of na­tion­ally tele­vised games in­clud­ing: The Bos­ton Celtics vs. the Brook­lyn Nets, New York Knicks against the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, Hous­ton Rock­ets tak­ing on the Chicago Bulls and the Den­ver Nuggets squar­ing off against the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers.

And there are some sen­sa­tional story lines around all those games.

But no NBA player did any­thing in 2012 that matched what James put to­gether.

No longer un­com­fort­able with the fall­out for the way he ex­er­cised his right in 2010 to choose his own fu­ture, he en­joyed a year loaded with tri­umphs. James al­lowed him­self to be in the pub­lic eye more, heard boo­ing in most road are­nas re­turn to nor­mal lev­els and in­sists he’s as con­tent as ever.

“I’m driven,” James said, “by some­thing greater.”

He has money. He would fig­ure to con­tend for sev­eral more cham­pi­onships if he re­mains healthy. He has enor­mous fame. He is on top of his game and in his prime.

What’s left is legacy, him at­tempt­ing to en­sure he truly be­comes one of the great­est.

“You look at some of the great­est com­pa­nies,” James said. “As great as McDon­ald’s is, they don’t stop. As great as Nike is, they don’t stop. They keep try­ing to be in­no­va­tive and make new, great things for con­sumers. They don’t stop. They could. They’ve got enough. I look at that as well, as mo­ti­va­tion. I want to keep get­ting bet­ter. I want to put my­self in po­si­tion to max­i­mize ev­ery lit­tle thing that I have.”

De­spite all his success, LeBron James says he re­mains mo­ti­vated ‘by some­thing greater’ in his pur­suit to be­come the best player he can be.

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