MIAMI — LeBron James was walking down the hallway that the Miami Heat call “Championship Alley” a few minutes after last season’s NBA Finals, when he decided the time was right to send a message.
It wasn’t for his fans.
It was for his detractors.
“Keep giving me motivation! I need it!” James shouted in the crowded corridor, as the champagne for a second straight NBA title started spraying in the nearby locker room. “Keep doubting me! I need it!”
James still has his haters, of course. But with the start of this year’s playoffs looming, the four-time NBA MVP said Friday he doesn’t necessarily need to be fueled by them anymore, not with the Heat having a chance to become just the fourth franchise in league history to capture three straight titles.
And if doubt exists — to be clear, it surely does after Miami lost 14 of its last 25 games — James said he’s not noticing.
“I sent out a few tweets but I haven’t been reading anything,” James said after Miami ended practice Friday. “I’m kind of just gearing toward locking in tomorrow night and go from there. But I don’t need any motivation. I don’t need extra motivation. I’m motivated enough. This is the best part of the season, it’s the best time of the year and I’m happy to be here once again.”
Miami’s path toward what it hopes is a third straight title and fourth straight appearance in the NBA Finals starts on Sunday against the Charlotte Bobcats, a team the Heat swept this season and are 15-0 against since James arrived in South Florida. Still, no one needs to tell him how much more difficult this postseason could be for Miami, since history isn’t exactly on his team’s side.