LeBron: 'This is more challenging than me trying to win my first championship'

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James started out 5-4 in his first season with the Miami Heat, playing with new teammates in an unfamiliar environment. Though it's easy to draw parallels, his circumstances with the Cleveland Cavaliers, off to a similarly uninspiring 5-4 start, are unique.

Namely, James has never tasked himself with being the leader of a young core of players. He was just blossoming in his first Cleveland stint, and his time in Miami saw him flanked by equally mature stars and a cast of veteran players.

James is now one of the most experienced players on the roster and one of the only players on the team with appreciable playoff experience. He's also the only one to have played through scrutiny similar to the kind the Cavaliers are dealing with right now, while struggling to meet sky-high expectations. It's been challenging, as James says he expected.

James told ESPN on Wednesday that his role in Cleveland is more complex than just chasing a title, and it's about more than just basketball: 

This is more challenging than me trying to win my first championship. Because that was a personal goal of mine. Doing this was never a goal until I decided to come back to Cleveland.

I've taken on the burden of leading young guys, getting them to understand what it takes to win. And it takes more than just basketball. It's about being a professional, not having a sense of entitlement, being grateful that you're a part of this league. Those things have a lot to do with winning.

Cleveland isn't where it needs to be yet, but the Cavaliers have plenty of time to get there. James having been through similar ruts in the past should help, and he can lean on his experiences in Miami to teach Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and company how to power through the tougher stretches.

Whether that can help the team's woeful defense is less clear, but it should, at the very least, help keep heads cool while the team finds its footing.

LeBron: 'This is more challenging than me trying to win my first championship'
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