How LeBron Improved

Great piece on LeBron’s transformation after the 2011 Finals.

First you need humiliation.

According to Spoelstra, “It took the ultimate failure in the Finals to view LeBron and our offense with a different lens. He was the most versatile player in the league. We had to figure out a way to use him in the most versatile of ways — in unconventional ways. It seems like a ‘duh’ moment now, but we had to go through the experiences and failures together.”

…That loss, and maybe some of those demeaning characterizations, fueled one of the greatest and most important transformations in recent sports history. James was distraught, but somehow channeled that into ferocious dedication to his craft. Spoelstra was perplexed and desperate to correct course; he told me, “Shortly after our loss to Dallas in the Finals, LeBron and I met. He mentioned that he was going to work on his game relentlessly during the offseason, and specifically on his post-up game. This absolutely made sense for us. We had to improve offensively, and one of the best ways would be to be able to play inside-out with a post-up attack.”

Then you need a plan:

It’s no secret where and when James first worked on his low-post game. Fueled by that loss to the Mavs, he went to Houston in the summer of 2011 to learn from a master: Hakeem Olajuwon.

“I wanted to get better,” James said of his decision to work with Olajuwon. “I wanted to improve and I sought out someone who I thought was one of the greatest low-post players to ever play this game. I was grateful and happy that he welcomed me with open arms; I was able to go down to Houston for four and a half days; I worked out twice a day; he taught me a lot about the low post and being able to gain an advantage on your opponent.

Then you need to grind and grind and grind:

I used that the rest of the offseason, when I went back to my hometown. Every day in the gym I worked on one thing or I worked on two things and tried to improve each and every day.”

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