LeBron James: No regrets about '10
MIAMI -- Given the opportunity, LeBron James would change countless things about 2010.
Losing to the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. How his infamous "Decision" to leave Cleveland was executed. The fraying of some long relationships with the Cavaliers.
I don't regret any decision that I've made and I'm happy where I am now. I think my family, my friends, they're all excited with my new beginning. And I definitely am.” -- LeBron James
None, the two-time MVP said while looking back on the year unlike any other in his life -- and looking ahead to 2011, a year the Miami Heat forward hopes to have defined by championship instead of controversy.
"It absolutely was a good year," James said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday while relaxing alongside the Heat practice court. "I don't regret any decision that I've made and I'm happy where I am now. I think my family, my friends, they're all excited with my new beginning. And I definitely am."
He meant that in many different ways.
Business-wise, while studies suggested his "Q Score" -- the measure of how something or someone appeals to a broad audience -- took a big hit over the offseason, sales of his new Miami jersey and his latest line of Nike sneakers are booming. Personally, some of those who have known him best say he's as happy as he's been in years. And on the basketball court, the Heat are soaring.
Winners in 16 of their last 17 games, the Heat will take a 25-9 record into 2011 and have more than a few people around the NBA saying they're playing as well as any team in the league, maybe better. All the negativity after a 9-8 start seems long forgotten.
"Overall, where we're at now is what I envisioned," James said. "Did I envision our tough times early on? Not to that extent. I knew we would have some bumps along the road, but to the extent where we were at? I don't think any of us expected that. No one here in Miami or no one in the league expected us to have these trials and tribulations. But it made us who we are today, going into 2011."
So in other words, the Heat have collectively taken a similar road as James did personally over the past 12 months.
A year ago, he was still expecting to deliver on his promise of bringing a title to Cleveland, even as nonstop speculation swirled about his plans for free agency on July 1. The opinions and predictions were everywhere -- he was going to the New York Knicks, to the Chicago Bulls, to the Los Angeles Clippers, staying home in Cleveland.
Everyone, it seemed, "knew" what he was going to do. Everyone, that is, except James himself.
While many suspect otherwise, James still says he didn't make his decision until the morning of July 8, announcing it to the world about 12 hours later in a televised special that raised $4 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America -- along with the ire of millions who watched it live.
"He can take this year, for the rest of his life and the rest of his career, and look at it as a stepping stone for him as a basketball player and as a man," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "He was on a team projected to win a championship, was the MVP and then everything came crashing down real fast. So he had to make a tough decision, and he made it based on what was best for him as a man."
James grew tired long ago of discussing "The Decision," even though he's still asked about it almost daily.
He says he prefers to look ahead, not back.
"I'll set goals for the year, but I'm not a resolutions guy," James said. "My New Year's resolution would be the same as going into every NBA season, just to be productive every day, as a basketball player, as a father and friend on and off the court and do the things that need to be done to help us win a championship. So if I had to have one, my resolution would be the same as my preseason goals."
Just about everyone in the Heat locker room had some sort of relationship with James before this season, but even those who were closest to him -- Wade in particular -- didn't have a complete picture of him while largely watching from afar.
Wade marvels at James' basketball talent. He also marvels just as much about James' personality, something few people get a chance to fully learn about.
"LeBron is known as being one of the top-paid athletes, he's known for his business savvy, he's known for being wise beyond his years," Wade said. "So people would be surprised to know that he's the silliest, goofiest person in the world. ... I just say he loves what he does. He loves being the person he is."
He's loving Miami as well.
It's still not home -- Miami won't replace Akron, where his mother and children still reside most of the time -- but James said he's growing increasingly comfortable each day with his new surroundings. James is settling in a $9 million house, photos of which were leaked online to his chagrin, the latest loss in a quest for some semblance of privacy.
"It's getting better as the days go on," James said. "Honestly, I like to relax. Most of the time I sit at home, just chill, enjoy the weather. That's definitely a good time to reflect, sit outside and enjoy what Miami has to offer."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra began the process of enjoying what James had to offer this summer. They went to lunches and talked about anything and everything, though largely not about basketball. Spoelstra wanted to know what made him tick, what he liked, what he disliked.
He wasn't surprised by much of what he learned, except perhaps one thing.
"He's the first one," Spoelstra said. "In training camp, he was the first player at breakfast, usually is the first player to get to the arena. He likes extra time to prepare. Everything we do, he likes to arrive early. He takes this very seriously. If you think about it, he's been under this microscope since he was in seventh, eighth grade -- and he's always been able to answer the bell of expectations."
Well, most expectations, that is.
James turned 26 on Thursday and his friends and family got him a wide array of birthday gifts, from reading material to electronics, even though he's notoriously hard to shop for because he usually buys whatever he wants for himself.
For all his riches, he can't buy a championship ring.
That's what 2010 was about, and of course, that's what he's clamoring for in 2011.
"You try to continue to be blessed and take pride in what you do, the game of basketball, the centerfold of everything," James said. "I'll continue to get better. I'll continue to win. Someday, I hope to bring championships to this franchise. And off the court, I want to keep inspiring kids. I don't want them to be LeBron. I want them to be better than LeBron."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press