HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. – On Day 1, LeBron James looked perfectly comfortable in new surroundings.
He pumped his fist after passing over a double-team and setting Joel Anthony up for a dunk. He got wide-eyed after breaking free in a defensive drill for a thunderous slam that left teammates more than impressed. He shouted instructions during drills, then got into an animated argument with Dwyane Wade over a scoring dispute as practice was ending.
“That’s just me,” James said.
That’s who the Miami Heat wanted.
The NBA’s reigning two-time MVP went through his first full practice with the Heat on Tuesday, a workout so intense even coach Erik Spoelstra was dripping sweat when the first session of training camp was over at a U.S. Air Force installation on Florida’s Panhandle. A snaking line of reporters and camera crews surrounded nearly half the court, and James gave them a memorable show.
“It’s not normal,” James said. “It’s not normal just yet. It’s a new beginning for me. I don’t feel like a rookie but I feel like it’s a new start. I’ve been around training camps before, but it’s not normal. You guys know it’s not normal. But as the year goes on, with the team getting to know each other, I continue to get to know you … you get more comfortable with one another.”
He’d put on the Heat practice uniform before, doing so over the summer after joining Miami and spurning an offer to remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers, essentially his hometown team and the place where he grew into a global icon over his first seven seasons.
He wasn’t laid-back in his first formal Miami practice. Quite the contrary.
“That’s what we’re trying to get from everybody, no possessions off, to have that mentality,” Spoelstra said. “It was a good start.”
Miami arrived 12 hours before its first practice amid fanfare, a large crowd of military personnel packed into a hangar to greet the team that decided for many reasons to hold their weeklong camp about 650 miles from home.
At one point during practice, Wade and James tried to persuade assistant coach Bob McAdoo – a Hall of Fame player – that he had the score wrong of a drill. After all, a down-and-back sprint was at stake.
James won the discussion, so off on a run Wade went.
“I was just trying to argue,” Wade said. “I just wanted to get in on the argument.”