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LeBron James feels he would’ve been as great a player had he not joined the Heat

During LeBron James’ first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was a great individual player and, in the eyes of some, the best player in the NBA. But he didn’t know how to win or to lead yet.

During the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, the Cavs had the best record in the league, yet both times they fizzled out in the playoffs. In 2009 they fell to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the following year, they succumbed to the Boston Celtics in the second round, despite being favored in both series.

In the summer of 2010, James shocked the world by “taking his talents” to the Miami Heat. He spent four years there, and from all outward appearances, he went from a great player to an all-time great while with the Heat.

Before the Los Angeles Lakers, his current team, took on the Heat on Monday, James reflected on his time with Miami. While he acknowledged that he learned a lot there, he also said his career would’ve turned out similarly if he hadn’t joined the Heat (h/t Lakers Daily).

Via ESPN:

“I think I would still be at this level no matter if I would’ve came here (Miami) or not,” James said. “Let’s not get it twisted: the four years I was here, it was amazing. I loved everything about it. Loved this franchise, this franchise is top tier, it’s one of the best franchises in the world.

“But as far as my career, my career was going to be my career as far as individually, because I know how much I put into the game and I know how much I strived to be as great as I can be. [But] as far as what I was able to learn here was second to none, that’s for sure.”

In each of his four seasons with the Heat, James reached the NBA Finals, and they took home back-to-back world championships in 2012 and 2013. After James returned to Cleveland in 2014, they underwent a rebuilding project, but ever since star forward Jimmy Butler joined them four years ago, they have advanced to the championship series twice.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire