James got the word about this MVP award Thursday. Longtime friend and close associate Randy Mims delivered the message because James couldn't be reached when the call came. Of all the messages Mims has given James over the years, this one was unforgettable, he said.
"It was kind of an honor, honestly," Mims said. "A huge honor. His response, it was like a breath of fresh air, like, 'Wow, I did?' I know what was put into this year, being part of it. I know what we went through last year and trying to just rebuild him, his game, some of the things he wanted to get back to doing as a person."
James was out shopping Friday night when word began to spread that he won. Even though James already had spent a day processing the news, he said it was moving to hear others react.
"This is crazy," James said.
James posed with the trophy Saturday and will get to show it off to Heat fans Sunday afternoon when presented with the prize again by Commissioner David Stern before Miami faces Indiana in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.
James' voice broke a couple of times as he spoke Saturday — highly uncharacteristic for him — and he confessed he was more nervous than he expected.
"I see my two sons, I do what I do and I try to perform at the highest level every night, and a big part of the reason is those guys. I don't want to let them down," James said, pausing for a brief moment as he looked at fiancée Savannah Brinson and his sons. "Secondly, my teammates, like I said. The reason I'm up here today is because of those guys. If those guys don't sacrifice what they sacrifice every single night ... I wouldn't be up here."
Moments later, he asked the entire Heat roster to join him on the stage, and the players huddled behind him.
"These 14 guys right here, they give everything," James said. "And they give me everything."
Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: "We do not take LeBron James for granted, not here in this organization."
Heat guard Dwyane Wade grabbed the trophy before the ceremony started, a playful jab and nothing else. When he was having an MVP-caliber season but finished third in 2009, Wade said James would be a candidate for the award for years to come.
He didn't mind then, and minds even less now that they're teammates.
"It's amazing to think about it in that sense — three in four years," Wade said. "And there could have been one last year. It just shows how great of a talent, how great of a player that he is. Obviously, as an organization, we're excited, especially coming off of last season and everything that happened and was said."
James came into this season with a new mindset, a happier one, one that meant he wasn't going to play this season the way he did last year when he was consumed by trying to silence critics. The critics, he knows now, won't be going away.
Well, maybe unless he wins that title. MVP awards are nice, but James knows they simply don't compare.
"I'd give all three of them back for an NBA championship," James said. "It's all I care about. It's all I know."
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