lebron james

For James it will be a chance to win title No. 2 to go with his four MVP crowns. He doesn’t need validation anymore after winning last year, but when it finally comes time to judge his place among the league’s all-time greats, the number of rings he ends up collecting will figure in the equation.

It’s been three full seasons now since he announced his departure from Cleveland in the much-derided ”The Decision” television special. Much has changed since then, and James credits Miami’s loss to Dallas in the finals two years ago with making him both a better basketball player and a better person.

If he was a half-hearted leader before, he’s fully in charge now. On Monday morning he delivered an inspirational address to his teammates, urging them to lay everything on the line to make sure the season didn’t end early. He and Wade also met to plan strategy for the deciding game, and James told Wade he would take defensive responsibility for Indiana’s Paul George, who averaged 21.5 points in the first six games.

It turned out to be a pivotal decision, with George getting just 7 points on 2 of 9 shooting before fouling out.

”Ever since I lost in the finals to Dallas my mind frame changed that offseason,” James said. ”I just wanted to get back playing the game I love and have fun and play at a high level.”

Reported by Tim Dahlberg of the Associated Press