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How LeBron James found his focus these playoffs

Jun 21, 2012, 10:17 AM EDT

Miami Heat player LeBron James attends a Getty Images

LeBron James plays his best when he is comfortable.

He’s not wired like a Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett, who turn insults real and perceived into fuel that motivates them and gets them into their zone. LeBron needs to tune out the outside world to get in his zone, and in playoff runs past he has struggled to do that.

This time he has found his place — he has his family with him in Miami, he is reading books in the locker room before every game — and it has him closer than he has ever been to an NBA championship. LeBron and the Heat are up 3-1 over the Thunder and can close it out at home in Game 5 Thursday night.

Finding his comfort zone started with having his fiancé and two sons join him in Miami. They were still in Akron last year but moved down to Miami during the lockout. But that family is giving him space.

“Since the postseason everyone has been shut down,” LeBron said about the distractions that family can bring. “They understand what I’ve been going through over the years. My family has just been allowing me to just play the game and not worry about everything else that’s going on. They wouldn’t dare get in my way at this point.”

To release that pressure on game night, James has turned to reading in the locker room before games. The LeBron James book club has read Jerry West’s autobiography “West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life” (which I recommend highly), “Decoded” by Jay-Z and a series of other books including the Hunger Games trilogy.

“It just slows my mind down,” LeBron said. “It just gives me another outlet. Throughout the playoffs all you think about is basketball. All you want to do is play basketball. But at the same time it can become a lot. It can come to a point where it’s overloading the mind and you think about it too much…

“The reading gave me an opportunity to — just for those couple hours of the day, or those 20, 25 minutes before the game — just gives me an opportunity to read and think about something else, and get a sense of what else is going on besides the game of basketball. It’s made me comfortable.”

And that comfort has led to a finals MVP kind of playoff run. It has led James to be within one more win of his ultimate goal. It has brought him closer to living up to his potential than at any time in his past.

We’ll see if it can help him take that last, big step to NBA champion.

  1. borderline1988 - Jun 21, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    I think this blog hit the nail on the head in that Lebron is not somebody who turns insults or lack of respect into motivation for winning; rather, he appreciates being comfortable in his surroundings (in his own mind anyways). I feel like Duncan is probably the same. And even Shaq is someone who likes to be liked – he wouldn’t be happy in a scenario where everyone hates him.

    Fact is, Garnett only has 1 championship. Kobe has 5, but he was a beneficiary of being on the best team in the league with the best coach in history in every one of his championship runs.

    We put too much emphasis into the super-competitiveness of players. In every career in life, different people succeed with different mindsets.
    Not everyone has to have Kobe’s or Jordan’s mindsets. And Lebron is about to prove that.

  2. charlutes - Jun 21, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    Lebron gets his championship after 8 years of failure and after teaming up with wade and bosh…cool, whatever, next chapter please

    • thebigcaptain2011 - Jun 21, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      That makes no sense. So you are saying that every athlete who didn’t win it all their rookie year failed? Clearly you nothing about sports, or life for that matter. Everyone has their own set of circumstances. I guess if the HEAT (it’s a team game, not individual) win it all you will just find the next athlete to bash and hate on because your life is miserable. I’m sure you were the same guy who was knocking Peyton manning….and probably the same guy who found happiness in Kobe’s “failures” without Shaq. Why don’t you try being positive sometimes. You will have a better life….

    • truthhurtstoo - Jun 21, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      3 time MVP noob… now, go crawl back under the fridge

    • finalword33 - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      And, Norris Cole is a genius, because he’ll have a ring in his rookie season…and probably for seasons to come.

    • okcallday - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:28 PM

      kill yourself.

  3. ceschatz - Jun 21, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    8 years of failure? So I guess Jordan had 6 years of failure before he won his first ring, right?

    • finalword33 - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      Norris Cole will have 0 years of failure.

      • slopmcflop - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:25 PM

        I heard Norris Cole once played a game of 3 on 1 with Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant. The three of them left on crutches after Norris Cole performed a sick nasty crossover, breaking all their ankles at once, and throwing down a 21 point dunk, ending the game.

  4. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 21, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    It’s out there for the taking, but let’s have this conversation later because there’s still work to be done.

    The 4th win is the toughest. Huge effort will be required tonight. More than last game and more than the games before that. Nothing that happened in any games before matter now. OKC is a BEAST and they will not go down easy.

    Miami’s been here before. Understands what this means. Want it like you want your next breath. ALL IN. NO REGRETS! ONE GAME! RIGHT NOW!

    • cantonbound13 - Jun 21, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      WOW! You really need this more than LeBron.

      • ceschatz - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:21 PM

        It’s called being a fan. Reject

  5. davidcl77 - Jun 21, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    If this guy can now be humble after so much arrogance, good for him. Anyone that ever questioned his abilities knows nothing about basketball. Now that finally apparently he has overcome the mental block he had his entire career at the end of important games, the league had better beware.
    Per his prediction, he will still have 7 more championships to go after this one. I think he exaggerated a little, don’t you think?!?

  6. shockexchange - Jun 21, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    If the Thunder want to win tonight and get this series back to OKC they need to read … “The keys to stopping Lebron James.”

  7. topprospect - Jun 21, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    How Lebron James Found His Focus These Playoffs? This article should’ve just read in giant bold letters, “BALLS”.

  8. michflaguy - Jun 21, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    You are correct…he does NOT play like KG or Kobe.
    He’s cool, calm and collected and plays with a clear mind…like Kareem, Bird, Olajuwan, Dr. J.
    KG and Kobe are overly-emotional, prone to pouting when things don’t go their way. They allow their emotions to derail their play…and their teams.
    LeBron does none of those things.

  9. khrish67 - Jun 21, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Hell, I saw life in a completely different light when I LEFT OHIO!

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