2011 Finals changed The Heat’s Big Three — Miami Herald

 

Dave Hyde

10:48 p.m. EDT, June 11, 2012

Posted on www.sun-sentinel.com

 

OKLAHOMA CITY — There was a brief moment Monday afternoon, a brief and fun moment, when they walked onto the court, stood on the baseline and began stretching at the start of practice.

“Here we go,” LeBron James said.

“Here we go again,” Dwyane Wade said.

They’re the underdog this time. That’s different. They’re still hated nationally, but not to the radioactive level of last year. That’s different.

But most of all what’s different this June is the Heat‘s Big Three themselves. Sports aren’t static. Players change. People grow. Ideas evolve. And the most telling part of their return to the NBA Finals is how last year’s loss affected them.

“I’ve thought about it every day,” Chris Bosh said.

Even when his baby was born?

“OK, almost every day,” he said.

Twelve months ago, Bosh collapsed in a hallway, in tears, upon leaving the court. Wade felt an ache that didn’t leave for weeks. James sat on a couch at home for two weeks, seeing no one, growing what he called a “homeless man” beard after a Dallas series that was disaster for him.

“I didn’t play well,” LeBron said Monday. “I didn’t make enough game-changing plays that I know I’m capable of making, and I felt like I let my teammates down. I don’t know. Just didn’t make enough plays.”

That started his summer of change. One of the telling parts of the Big Three is they don’t appear consumed by the over-the-top media coverage of them. But LeBron admitted he gave in to its dark side. He hated back. That changed him, defeated him.

“I was doing things to prove other people wrong rather than enjoying the game,” he said.

Look at the small changes since then: He became engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Savannah Brinson. He reached out to formerNBA stars for advice to find thoughts that worked for him.

He’s become known for reading books these playoffs — and heaven knows the book business can use him — rather than tweeting out things like, “Now or never,” as he did during the Finals last year.

Everyone noticed a different LeBron, a steadier one. He didn’t close down from media questions or public scrutiny. But he didn’t react too hard, either. As he said after Game 7’s win against Boston, “People have their own opinions [about him], and rightfully so.”

For Bosh, the change from last year was different, more subtle. It had to do with inner confidence. He left with the pain of the loss, sure, but with something more from his first run deep into the playoffs, too. Something that surprised him.

“It sparked something in me,” Bosh said. “I heard a lot about how everybody doesn’t think I’m a good basketball player. I know I’m a really good basketball player. I believe in myself. I have supreme confidence.”

Wade is different than Bosh and LeBron. He has a ring. He doesn’t face career questions with verbs like “haven’t” and “didn’t.” His lesson was one of waiting, wondering.

“It’s been a long year,” he said. “It tells you how to appreciate this time. It doesn’t come along easy.”

Experience cuts two ways. Oklahoma City is young. That can help. The Marlins were in winning the 2003 World Series when Josh Beckett said, “We’re too young to know what we don’t know.”

But having been there is a lesson the Big Three embrace. Bosh said how last year he was happy to be here — “Everything was great, everything was grand. This year, it’s all about winning.”

To him, anyway. LeBron said he won’t have any regrets, no matter the outcome because, “I know I’m going to give it my all.”

“I’m happy, and I’m humbled, that I can actually be back in this position less than 12 months later to do a better job of making more plays, more game-changing plays out on the floor on a bigger stage,” he said. “So we’ll see what happens.”

Times change. People change. The only question left is whether the results change with them.

 

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