MIAMI -- Over the years LeBron James has always spoken respectfully about the San Antonio Spurs and their accomplishments. But a day before seeing them again in the Finals, the Miami Heat star revealed something that's been bubbling below the surface for a long time.
A desire for revenge.
James said Wednesday he's long waited for the chance to get back at the Spurs for how they beat him in the 2007 Finals, handily sweeping James' inexperienced Cleveland Cavaliers team.
"I have something in me that they took in '07; beat us on our home floor, celebrated on our home floor," James said. "I won't forget that. You shouldn't as a competitor. You should never forget that.
"It's the same group of guys, for the most part. The same Big Three, and Coach [Gregg] Pop[ovich]. And I look forward to the challenge once again."
In that series the Spurs bullied James with veterans like Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley and set up a strategy that ultimately embarrassed him. He shot just 36 percent as the Spurs took advantage of his lack of a reliable jump shot at the time, pushing him to spots on the floor where he wasn't comfortable and daring him to shoot.
"I have to imagine he does [have revenge on his mind]," Spurs star Tim Duncan said. "He's a competitor, I can't imagine he's forgotten that."
During the following 2007-08 season, the first time James saw the Spurs again he nearly put up a triple-double in leading the Cavs to a two-point win in San Antonio. It did not come close to making up for the series defeat the season before, but at the time James called it one of the most satisfying victories he could remember.
It has taken six years but James is now getting the opportunity to have a chance at true redemption. Now playing in his fourth Finals with a more experienced Heat team, James and his teammates feel they will be competing on a different level.
"After that Finals he probably always obviously wanted to get back again, I think he probably always wanted to get back and play them," Dwyane Wade said. "So obviously having this opportunity right now is probably something he always dreamed of, of getting back to the Finals and playing the Spurs again."
In many ways, what the Spurs did to James in the Finals that season helped him. Using his untrustworthy jump shot as a weapon against him forced James to rebuild his technique and change his mentality in the ensuing seasons. According to Hoopdata.com, James shot just 34 percent on jump shots between 16-23 feet in the 2006-07 season, numbers the Spurs used when setting up their game plan.
James has steadily improved since. This season he shot 46 percent from that range as he won his fourth Most Valuable Player Award since losing in the Finals to the Spurs. During the 2007 playoffs, James shot just 28 percent from 3-point range and was 4-of-20 from there against the Spurs. This postseason he's shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers and 51 percent overall.
James said if the Spurs attempt the same game plan this season as they did in 2007 -- which included leaving James open on pick-and-rolls by going "under" the screens -- he will make them pay.
"If you go into my pick-and-roll now, I'm going to shoot. And I'm confident I'm going to make every last one of them," James said. "I'm a better player and you can't dare me to do anything I don't want to do in 2013."