Last night marked the end of perhaps the most exhausting NBA season in recent memory. From
last summer’s lockout to the Christmas Day euphoria to LeBron James finally capturing his elusive
championship. We saw the bizarre, the surreal and the inspiring.

James and his demons were front and center during all of it. He exorcised them by bookending a
memorable playoff run with a gritty triple-double. It was befitting of his maturation as both a person and
a player. His performance not in just Game 5, but throughout the Finals, has left us all to wonder what
comes next.

His journey to reach the peak of excellence this season could be the start of string of championship
celebrations that NBA fans witness over the next several years. But his path is still very much undecided.
No one knows where his legacy will go from here, but his participation in the Olympics this summer may
play a bigger role in his future than most realize.

Starting with the build-up to the Redeem Team reclaiming world basketball’s throne, USA basketball
has been a guild for the league’s best and brightest. Thanks to Sportscenter, the internet and AAU, this
current crop of superstars have been far more familiar with each other than those of generations past
but it is still a rarity for these athletes to be able to come together to witness how their respective peers
hone their craft. LeBron’s inclusion in the Olympic roster pool means that in just a couple weeks, he will
be surrounded by this highly motivated group once again.

And it couldn’t come at a better time.

The natural tendency for James now is to relax. His nine year journey filled with trials and tribulations
is finally over. With an empty summer in front of him, it’d be easy for James to bask in the glow of a
championship and enjoy the vibrant nightlife in South Beach. Instead, James is immediately assigned
another, perhaps more important, objective: to win the gold.

His new task isn’t nearly as important as the experience he’ll have during it. As his instincts are telling
him to ease off the pedal, James, in a very Dickinson-type way, will be visited by incarnations of his
basketball past and future while preparing for the London games.

His future will appear in the form of teammate Kobe Bryant. Bryant, with all his accomplishments,
doesn’t have anything left to prove. Yet more than once, James will the enter the gym only to witness
the 33-year old walk off the court, drenched in sweat, having just finished another one of his legendary
pre-practice workouts. James will again see the drive that has made Kobe a five-time NBA champion,
one still hell bent on destroying any international rival that dares cross his path in London.

His past will be embodied in the form of his vanquished Finals foes. Before and after practices, James
is sure to see Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant putting up hundreds of extra jumpers in a desperate
attempt to cure an insatiable championship hunger that James was once afflicted with. They are not
only preparing for Olympic opponents, but the NBA season that lies ahead.

The preparation for London will no doubt impact James, but just how much? We won’t know until much
later. What we do know is that James will be there, being pushed by those ghosts of past and future, pondering his present.

-- Brett Koremenos is the Editor at NBA Playbook and a contributor to Hoopspeak. Follow him on Twitter.

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