Pat Riley says he still roots for LeBron James'
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Miami Heat president Pat Riley revealed that he still roots for LeBron James, even though the four-time champion now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers.

James, who spent four years with the Heat earlier in his career, went to four NBA Finals with Miami, winning two. He joined the Heat to form the Big 3 with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, all under Riley’s guidance as an executive.

“Despite what outsiders might assume, Riley said he still roots for James — except when the Lakers are playing the Miami Heat, of course,” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne wrote. “Riley and James have a shared history, from the two titles they won with Miami from 2010 to 2014. But mostly, Riley just appreciates James’ commitment to his craft and the game. ‘It’s hard for me to talk about what the players were like in the 1970s and ’80s versus what the mentality is like today,’ Riley said. ‘Back then, it was a badge of honor to play in every game.’”

James is closing in on the NBA’s all-time scoring record, and it’s clear that people around the NBA are appreciating his greatness.

This season, James is averaging 29.8 points per game and shooting 50.8 percent from the field. If he stays healthy, he’s easily on pace to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record in the 2022-23 season.

While James didn’t spend the majority of his career in Miami, he was an integral part in allowing Riley to carry out his plan of pairing Wade with other superstars. The Heat have won three NBA titles with Riley in the organization, going to the NBA Finals six times.

James eventually left the Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but there’s no doubt that he’s one of the most important players in franchise history.

It’s hard not to marvel at James’ work ethic and consistency, as he’s still a dominant player despite turning 38 years old this season.

James has never averaged less than 20 points per game in a single season, and he’s averaged at least 25 points per game in every season since his rookie year.

The Heat and Lakers have already played all of their games against each other this season, which means Riley can root for James while he chases history. Miami split the season series with Los Angeles, and both teams could meet in the NBA Finals if they have strong second halves to the season.

Riley’s Heat have climbed all the way up to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, as they’re starting to get fully healthy for the first time basically all season. With so many key players in the lineup on a nightly basis, Miami could be poised to make a run in the East.

While James’ Lakers are much further out of the playoff picture, it’s hard to every count out James, as Riley and Heat fans know all too well.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.