DURHAM (Olympics) - LeBron James at long last has his NBA title.
And very soon, despite the grind of an abbreviated yet very hard campaign with the Miami Heat, one that started late because of the NBA Lockout, the 27-year-old will turn his attention to the United States Olympic team.
The veteran forward played in Athens and Beijing, and now USA national team coach Mike Krzyzewski says there is no doubt about the presence of his leader in London when the Americans go for a second gold medal in a row.
"I know LeBron will play," Krzyzewski said on Thursday.
While James was able to reach the top of the podium with the USA in China, it took longer than expected to become an NBA champion.
He is one now, though, after the Heat's 121-106 Game 5 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday evening in Miami.
Criticized for leaving Cleveland for the Heat in the summer of 2010, James was ridiculed after he and his teammates lost to the Dallas Mavericks in last year's Finals.
In an adversity-filled 2011-12, James persevered and earned the honor of league MVP.
In the play-offs, James showed everyone he deserved the award.
After scoring 26 points, handing out 13 assists and grabbing 11 rebounds in Game 5, James was named the NBA Finals MVP to cap a spectacular year with Miami.
Reflecting on last season's disappointment when he played poorly in the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, and the bounce-back year that he and his teammates have just had, James now sounds like someone who has matured both on and off the court.
"The best thing that happened to me was losing the Finals, and me playing the way I played," said, "because basically, I got back to the basics.
"I knew I was going to have to change as a basketball player and as a person to get what I wanted.
"It just happened one year later."