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NBA: LeBron James 3.0

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Sep 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Lebron James decided this summer to “come home” after spending four years with the Miami Heat and getting two championship rings in the process. Now back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, we take a look at this new King James as he transitions into his 3.0 stage of his career.

Every man goes through changes. For most NBA players, they are considered lucky if they only spend their careers with two teams. Other players get moved around the league like chess pieces to fit certain roles around the “superstar” players in the league. The James Journey began before he entered the NBA in 2003. He was crowned King before being drafted by Cleveland, thanks to magazine covers and national broadcasts of his high school games.

Lebron James 1.0

His first season with the Cavs, although he was the best player on the team, James put every aspect of the game on his shoulders both on and off the court. He wanted to handle the ball on the offensive end and guard the best player on the defensive end. He wanted to make all of his decisions off the court with sponsorship and endorsements, with the help of his childhood friends that were learning on the fly as well. Lebron was a young father with his then girlfriend, while his mom sat courtside and yelled at opposing teams. Talk about family pressure. Although he made it to The Finals as Lebron 1.0, a sweep by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007 was hard to swallow. His Cavs team would never make it back to The Finals again.

Lebron James 2.0

James entered Cleveland with flash and left with flash. This time he decided to host an hour-long broadcast to announce that he was “taking his talents to south beach”. A surprise to everyone, including the ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert. What happened next was more than anyone expected. The die hard fans in Northeast Ohio burned his jersey, Gilbert wrote a scathing essay about him, and overnight the villain Lebron was born. More surprising to me was he adoption of this role to his playing style. He, along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, became the bad boys of South Beach.

The result was four consecutive trips to The Finals, winning two. Not to underscore Erik Spoelstra, but let’s be realistic here. It was the Pat Riley presence that changed Lebron into a champion. James himself considers those four years the equivalent to going to college. Riley played professor and Wade was the graduate student assistant.

“I understand what it takes to win. It is do difficult. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done in my life” – Lebron from his sit-down with CNN’s Rachel Nichols.

When asked during the Cavs media day last week what he learned from Miami he said, “Patience. I’m more patient now than I was four years ago.”

Lebron James 3.0

3.0 Lebron started soon after getting beat by San Antonio 4-1 in The Finals last year. Instead of holding a broadcast sequel to “The Decision”, he instead chose a milder, more personal open letter to Ohio. Stating emphatically, “I’m Coming Home”.

“With each experience, life is the greatest teacher”, commented Lebron during media day. “I’ve been able to learn from my mistakes and grow from them.”

Off the court, Lebron’s family situation is different also.

“Throughout the four years, I’ve turned my girlfriend to my fiance to my wife. We have two boys, grown boys. The friends and family, we have all continued to grow. That is what life is all about. You have obstacles in your life and how you come out of them defines who you are.”

They are also expecting a daughter to be born soon.

His close friends and business partners, like Rich Paul, have become top agents and businessmen in the sports industry. They are calling their own shots and making their own deals with other athletes besides Lebron.

On the court, Lebron will be noticeably leaner, faster, and more efficient. Thanks to a 67-day crash diet during the offseason.

“I’m quicker on the court now. Not a good thing for the competetion.”

Instead of the duck-your-shoulder, go through the defender unstoppable style Lebron has made his own, could we now see a more finesse oriented game with speed that kills. (Sounds like a new Intel processor…)

He left Cleveland to join a team, and now he returns to make a team. Since he signed with the Cavs, he has been the outspoken GM for putting together his current roster. He added proven winners like Shawn Marion, James Jones, and Mike Miller to the fold. Guys that have held the championship trophy before.

The new version of Lebron understands he can not have the reluctance that plagued his career during his first stint with Cleveland.

“Every single day we have to understand we can’t waste that day…I will be the leader of the team.

The biggest change in James is his maturity level. A lot comes with being a father of two boys, husband, leader, and champion. Before making his decision to come back to Cleveland, he consulted his boys first to get their blessing. We may not have seen the new version play yet, but you can anticipate a difference for the better.

“I live in the present. Yesterday is over, the future is unknown.”

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