Sportsman: LeBron James (cont.)
Only then does he retreat to his meticulously organized locker and clear his mind of the details running through it. Many players function at the same speed all the time. James, constantly searching for mismatches, shifts back and forth from reading to reacting. His brain can bog him down. "Sometimes I overanalyze things, over-think things," he says. "It can get in my way." He slips on his headphones, turns up the hip-hop and finds his attack mode.
TD GARDEN, BOSTON
June 7, 2012
GAME 6, EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
RANDY MIMS, James's friend and business partner: I flew from Boston to Miami right before the game started. I wanted to be there because we were down 3--2, and I figured if we lost, you didn't know what he'd be like mentally when he got home. I was wearing a heat hat, and I sat down on the plane next to a Celtics fan. He was like, "You guys had a great season. You worked hard." I said, "Talk to me when we land." He said, "O.K., I'll let you know how bad you lost."
TOMMY HEINSOHN, Celtics' TV analyst: When LeBron was with Cleveland two years ago, he played [a postseason game] against Boston, and he didn't show up. It was a big event, and he was in another world. I remember saying, "What's the matter with this guy?" You could tell right away, everything was different this time. I've gotten to the point where I watch people come out for warm-ups and get a feel for if they're up for a game, or too tense, or taking it too lightly. He sat on the bench like he was in a trance. I just watched him. That's what everybody did. We just watched.
UDONIS HASLEM, Heat forward: You could tell on the bus. He wasn't going to let us lose.
ERIK SPOELSTRA: Once the game started, we saw that look. We just call it the look. We have a picture of it now, bigger than life, outside our locker room. It's the look of the ultimate competitor.
LeBRON JAMES: You know how in school, around the classroom, there's always the alphabet? The capital A and lower case A has an apple. The capital B and lower case B has a ball. I always looked at the L, because of my name, and it had a lion. That's why I love lions. The look they're talking about is the look lions get when they're seeking prey and it's time to feast.
RAY ALLEN, then a Celtics guard: We let him get comfortable early. We didn't pressure him. We didn't double-team. We let him come off screens looking at the basket, and then he got in a rhythm, and when a guy like that gets in a rhythm, it's over.
JAMES (laughing): You put my mother on the floor, and if she were in a Boston Celtics uniform, I'd break her face.
SHANE BATTIER: Remember the tip dunk he had? His head was above the rim. You say to yourself, This guy is on another planet. You're looking at the scoreboard, and he's got 18, then 28, then 36, and you're like, Holy crap, this is one of the best performances of all time.
JACK MEYER, Heat fan, then age nine: I'm the kid who said, "Good job, good effort," to LeBron after Game 5. I think my message got through. What I remember is how, on top of everything, he kept Paul Pierce down in Game 6. Pierce is one of the best players in the league, and he went 4 for 18.
MIMS: We landed in Miami, and the Celtics fan reached into his sport-coat pocket and pulled out his phone. He threw it back in real fast and didn't say anything. I walked to the bottom of the ramp, and the skycap saw my hat and said, "LeBron was amazing tonight." I said, "We won?" He said, "Man, LeBron put on a clinic. Look." And all the TVs in the concourse were showing him with that look. The skycap said, "That's what he looked like all night."
JAMES: If I was a fan, and someone came into our building and did to us what I did to them, I'd probably have thrown a beer on him too.