James recently said that he’d be the same player even if he didn’t spend four seasons with the Heat during his career.
James obviously won two titles with Miami, reaching the NBA Finals four times, and Smith believes that the NBA’s all-time leading scorer needs to show more love to the Heat franchise for his time there.
.@stephenasmith disagrees with LeBron's recent comments saying he'd be the same player without his Heat stint 👀
"What the hell is wrong with you LeBron? … Because he got to Miami and learned what it took to be a champion, he's been unstoppable since." pic.twitter.com/3FYN0QzPJr
— First Take (@FirstTake) November 7, 2023
“What the hell is wrong with you LeBron?” Smith asked. “What the hell is wrong with you? Let me tell y’all something. LeBron James loses, in Boston, when he goes to Miami – how does it happen?
“You got James Dolan talking about making him a billionaire. That didn’t work. You got other teams looking at him. Pat Riley rolled up and put rings on the table. ‘Do you want these? OK, well here’s how you get them.’”
Smith went on further to praise James’ former teammate – Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade – who was a key part of the Big 3 that the Heat formed with James, Wade and Chris Bosh.
“Do y’all understand the greatness of a Hall of Famer by the name of Dwyane Wade?” Smith said. “He was a great player. He was a great leader.”
Wade’s impact as a player was extremely important, as he was a key offensive threat for Miami. However, he also gave James a sense of comfort, something that Smith believes was important for the now-Lakers star.
“LeBron – every press conference – was D-Wade looking – sitting right next to him,” Smith said. “Why was that? Because mentally, despite the greatness of LeBron James as a talent, mentally he was warped.
“He was scared to shoot free throws. He was scared to really take the bull by the horns. ‘Give me the rock, I’m that dude. I’m that man.’ So much so, that even after they lost in the Finals to Dallas – when Jason Terry was guarding him in the post in the fourth quarter and J.J. Barea – the bottom line is this: When that happened, the following year – All-Star Weekend – and I’ve said this many times – LeBron James got the ball in his hands and the late great Kobe Bryant claps his hands, ‘Let’s go’ and defending him. An exhibition All-Star game and just having a good time, and he threw the ball in the corner, and it was a turnover.
“And Melo (Carmelo Anthony), D-Wade, Kobe, everybody descended on LeBron. ‘What’s the matter with you?’ He was warped. And, that is why Shannon Sharpe, I haven’t given him the title as G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time), because I gotta take into account all of those things before you started winning championships.”
Smith went on to say that James would have “never” won a championship had he been going against Michael Jordan with the mentality that he had at the time.
“But because he got to Miami and learned what it took to be a champion, he’s been unstoppable since,” Smith said.
There’s no doubt that being in Miami helped James in his career, especially since it allowed him to become an NBA champion before returning the Cleveland Cavaliers to bring a title to the team that drafted him.
After signing with Miami, James went on a run where he made the NBA Finals in eight straight seasons. The Lakers star then went to Los Angeles and made the NBA Finals in the 2019-20 season, winning his first title with the Lakers.
While individually James may have put up amazing statistical numbers – which he still is doing in his 21st season – it’s reasonable to argue that playing for the Heat helped him break through to become a winner in the NBA.
Smith seems to think that James’ time with the Heat was invaluable to his future success. It’s hard to argue with the culture that Riley has built in Miami, and the team’s recent success is more proof of it.
Since bringing Jimmy Butler into the fold ahead of the 2019-20 season, Miami has made the NBA Finals twice and the Eastern Conference Finals three times in four seasons. The team has not captured a title in that stretch, but it has been in contention for one and a playoff team in all four campaigns.
A four-time champion, James will look to add to his amazing resume with the Lakers this season.