Six years after stunning and angering Pat Riley by leaving in the middle of what the Heat president hoped would be a decade-long dynasty, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James offered only praise for Riley, Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat organization on Tuesday.
On the eve of the first NBA Finals meeting between the Heat and Lakers, James was effusive in his assessment of the franchise where he spent four years, made four NBA Finals and won two championships and two MVP awards.
“Being around Riles and Spo and D-Wade and UD [Udonis Haslem], just to name a few, being part of that culture allowed me to grow, allowed me to see what it takes to not only compete for a championship but also to win a championship,” James said.
“It put me in a position where I knew what winning took. I saw what it took. I fit that culture as well because of how hard I work. It was a perfect match for those four years.”
That experience, he said, “never leaves you. Guys don’t realize, I went to Miami when I was 25 years old. It was 25 to 29. I was still growing, still trying to figure out who I am as a person, as a man, while still trying to compete for a championship every single year. I grew. And they allowed me to grow. And we pushed each other every single day. And I fit perfectly in that culture because I work just as hard as anybody else.”