The offseason has opened, which offers more time for the family — and greater opportunity for a father to annoy his offspring.
Monday night, following the Heat’s all-day championship celebration, LeBron James was relaxing by watching a movie with his two sons, while also scrolling through social media.
That’s when he saw tweets about what the Chicago Blackhawks had done, scoring two goals in 17 seconds to take a late lead in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.
“I immediately pressed pause and got in trouble with my kids,” James said Tuesday during his final media session of the 2012-13 season. “And I turned to the end of the game and saw what had happened.”
The scene looked familiar, save for the slipperiness of the surface and the shape of the prize.
“When I saw them hoisting that Stanley Cup trophy, I was able to be like, ‘I know exactly what that feeling’s all about,’ ” James said.
He has experienced it twice now, that “unexplainable feeling,” that “best feeling in the world,” and he made it clear Tuesday that the feeling has been everything he imagined, yet somehow not satiating.
“It’s something that I want again,” James said. “Because the time goes fast. We won it Thursday night, and we’ve already had the parade, and now it’s like, what do you do? It’s the summer. For me, I’m obsessed with success. I want that feeling again.”
That’s what every Heat fan welcomes, and many of James’ other words about next season (from “my body feels great” to “I love the burden” to “I will critique my game so I can be even more dynamic”) were similarly soothing.
Still, he knows that it isn’t simply about next season. It’s also about the season that follows, the one that comes after he has the chance to opt out of his contract in the summer of 2014. He knows, because he is one, that sports fans can’t fully appreciate the present when something controversial or unnerving is coming down the road.
It’s coming, just like those overpasses were coming, straight for his head, as he stood on the top of a double-decker bus, stogie out of the side of his mouth, soaking in the parade crowd.
“No, I wasn’t nervous,” James said. “We all warned each other every time. We ducked last year, too. It was the same route as last year. … It’s a bigger story than what it should be.”
For the next several months, James won’t be able to duck the biggest story in sports, because it is also about him. The 2014 questions will come in every city he visits. But he can deke like a Blackhawk, deke the way he did Tuesday, just enough to keep everyone guessing, parsing, waiting, stressing.
Is he prepared for the onslaught?
“No, I’m not,” James said. “I think what I’m prepared for right now is to come back a better player and try to defend our crown. … I’m not too much worried about free agency or any of that next summer.”
Weird to hear that chatter already?
“No, it’s not weird,” James said. “Because I’ve been in this position before. And it can’t get no worse than my season before I became a free agent in 2010.”
A year prior to that summer, no one was speculating that he would land in Miami. Nor does anyone outside his closest circle know now. It’s not even clear that he’s leaning one way or another, with so many factors — family preferences, Dwyane Wade’s health, team president Pat Riley’s status — worthy of influence and subject to change.
So you just have to take him at his words, like those he said about staying with Wade and Chris Bosh until the close of their respective careers.
“I mean, that’s the goal,” James said. “That’s the ultimate finish, and we all hope that can happen. … But you can never put — I don’t know — life changes, things happen, and you have to be prepared for that. But this is what we all want to be here for, and that’s to be able to compete for a championship each and every year, and, if we can do that, it would be awesome.”
So is something else:
The game’s greatest current player, “obsessed with success” and sharing it with the local squad and fans for at least one more season. That, for now, should be sufficient.
Noteworthy: As expected, veterans James Jones and Rashard Lewis exercised player options to remain with the Heat for $1.5 million and $1.4 million, respectively. Ray Allen has yet to exercise his $3.2 million option. Tuesday, Mario Chalmers said he expected to hear “in the next couple of days” whether the Heat will exercise their $4 million to keep him, but all signs point to them doing so.