LeBron al Kaseya Center-Miami
© photo on NBA.com
Monday LeBron James he couldn’t help but notice Miami’s new parquet, the one with the word “Culture” sprayed across the middle of the court and with team president Pat Riley’s long mantra painted in each lane. James and the Los Angeles Lakers are the first opponents to step onto the new court, with their annual visit to Miami for the Monday night game (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV, 1:30 a.m. Tuesday in Italy). The pitch is part of the team’s master marketing plan for 2023-24, which calls for the Heat to use the new floor and jerseys with “Culture” on the front multiple times throughout the season.
James took a trip down memory lane on Monday when he was asked about the court and reflected on his four seasons with Miami, a span that led to four trips to the NBA Finals, along with the first two of his four NBA titles. Back then, “culture” was a Heat philosophy and buzzword; it wasn’t printed on t-shirts until years later. “We haven’t talked about it much,” James said. “It was just that you come in and work, and the product of how much you put into the work would pay off.”
The mantra — “the hardest-working, best-conditioned, most professional, most unselfish, toughest, meanest and meanest team in the NBA” — has been the core of what Pat Riley he spent nearly 30 years building and farming in Miami. “You know, I think everyone on the outside, they probably hear about it so often, they’re probably tired of hearing about it,” the Heat coach said Erik Spoelstra regarding the belief of ‘culture’. “But we don’t care. You have to stand for something and we stand for it.”
It was the summer of 2010 when the Heat found a way to bring in James and Chris Bosh to Miami to play alongside Dwyane Wade. Spoelstra—one of the league’s newest coaches at the time—is still coaching the Heat, his current tenure now the second-longest with one team in the NBA behind only San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
For James, that’s the culture — as Riley, Spoelstra, general partner Micky Arison, general manager Andy Elisburg and many other top executives — were in Miami long before he arrived, and they remain there. “Other than San Antonio, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots, I think those are the only franchises that can be said to have as much stability as the Miami Heat,” James said. And James still sees parallels between the way he thinks and the way Riley thinks.
“Riley always talked about keeping the main thing the main thing,” James said. “And that’s what it’s always been for me.” James spent his first seven NBA seasons in Cleveland. He left Miami in 2014 to return to Cleveland, where he won a title in 2016 and is in his sixth season with the Lakers. He won a title there – against Miami in 2020 in the bubble – as well as surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar last season as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and is now the league’s oldest active player.
“I was 25 when I got here. Still a kid, even though I had seven years of professionalism. Still a kid,” James said after shooting Monday at the Heat’s arena, where his number will one day be retired. “I came here for one reason and one reason only: to win championships. That was my only goal. This that’s the only reason I teamed up with D-Wade and Bosh, because I felt like I couldn’t do it in Cleveland. I tried to recruit guys to come to Cleveland, I tried to go help upstairs, but it wasn’t happening. So , I had the opportunity to be a free agent and I did what I thought was best for my career.”
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