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LeBron James admits loss to Mavs in 2011 NBA Finals forced him to put emphasis in ‘mental fitness’

LeBron James, Lakers, Mavs

LeBron James admitted he was forced to look past the physical aspect of the game to channel greatness. Championless after his first year with the Miami Heat, James was mightly close to his first Larry O’Brien trophy, only to lose the last three games of the NBA Finals to the Mavs and be forced to wait to hold the hardware.

The Los Angeles Lakers star put more emphasis on his “mental fitness” after that season, realizing a strong mind is just as important as a tank-built 240-pound body and his otherworldly athleticism.

“I would think I would say probably like the last eight years,” said LeBron James when asked how long he’s worked on his mental fitness. “The one instance I can think of is the loss to Dallas in the 2011 Finals. I knew that the physical side wasn’t gonna just be enough and also the level of scrutiny that I was dealing with and how I got out of my comfort zone, I lost the love for the game, and I knew that was the mental side.

To be able to be in a packed arena on the road, with 20,000, 22,000 screaming fans going crazy, to be able to find one minutes, two minutes, whatever — 30 seconds to be able to close my eyes and just kind of relax myself and calm myself. It’s meditation basically — it’s worked tremendously for me in my career.”

Currently with the Lakers, James had to let go of that heel persona after his first season with the Heat and find his inner joy, which finally allowed him to conquer the long-eluded NBA Finals after losing his first two in disappointing fashion.

The King would win two straight with the Heat in 2012 and 2013, and then another with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 — a testament of his mental fortitude and newfound ability to tune out the outside noise to zone into his game.