LeBron James squaring off against his former team may be the biggest storyline of this year's Finals, but the Los Angeles Lakers star says he draws no extra motivation from the thought of beating the Miami Heat for his fourth NBA championship.
"Absolutely not," James told reporters Tuesday. "There's no extra meaning to winning a championship no matter who you're playing against. It's already hard enough to even reach The Finals."
James spent four seasons in Miami, winning back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of four consecutive Finals appearances. While there, he played under Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, who had succeeded Pat Riley only two years prior to James' arrival.
James said Tuesday he considers Riley, now the Heat's president, "one of the greatest minds this game has ever had." But he feels the media hasn't given Spoelstra the respect he deserves and called out reporters for diminishing the 46-year-old's merit.
"You guys always said, 'Well, you have LeBron, you have (Dwyane) Wade, you have (Chris) Bosh. Any coach can do it.' Nah, no. Any coach can't do it," James said, according to Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. "If any coach could do it, then there would be a lot more champions in this league. There would be a lot more successful coaches.
"Spo likes that. That's what fuels Spo, is the disrespect that you guys give him in the basketball world. And I'm not going to sit up here and act like I don't know what Spo's all about because he's damn good, if not great. ... He prepares like it's his last time ever coaching again every game, and I know that."
Game 1 of The Finals tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.