LeBron James' first season with the Heat ended in failure and disappointment. Worse than that, it ended in disgrace.
After the Mavericks finished off the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals, James took his talents -- but not his humility -- to the postgame interview room. There, stung by the bitterness of defeat and the failure of the superstar experiment in South Beach, James managed to bring dishonor into the room.
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His tone-deaf comment about how his critics would wake up the next day to the monotony of their lives -- while he would still be LeBron James -- resonated deep into the offseason and through a five-month lockout that threatened to deny him his chance at redemption.
The lockout eventually ended, but James' task of rehabilitating his image and proving he was worthy of his championship destiny was only beginning. To say that James accomplished both doesn't do his turnaround justice. He turned back his personal nemeses, the Celtics, denied one of the rising stars trying to jump ahead of him in the championship line, Kevin Durant, and played a profound role in closing out both. By the time he was finished, James had collected an NBA title, another MVP trophy and an Olympic gold medal -- doing it all with a dose of humility that had been the most glaring hole on his resume.
Not bad for a year's work. Now all he has to is do it again ... and again ... and again. But the first one? That's a forever accomplishment for one of the game's forever talents. And nobody can take it away.