The Spurs swept James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals, so long ago that the winning game plan focused on exploiting James' weaknesses. Those are nearly impossible to find now, and James essentially warned the Spurs that they shouldn't bother looking.
The Spurs already know.
"He'll be a lot more of a problem than he was in `07, that's for sure," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Wednesday.
Tim Duncan told the beaten James minutes after that series that the league would someday belong to him, and he was right. The NBA's MVP guided Miami to last year's championship and the league's best record this season.
Now the Spurs will try to take it back.
But James is now the best player in the game, is surrounded by more talent in Miami than he ever had in Cleveland, and still carries the memory of the beating the Spurs laid on him six years ago.
"I have something in me that they took in `07. Beat us on our home floor, celebrated on our home floor. I won't forget that. You shouldn't as a competitor. You should never forget that," James said.
He joined the Heat in 2010, experienced more finals failure a year later, then was finals MVP last year when Miami beat Oklahoma City in five games. Another title now would put him halfway to the four that Duncan and Popovich have won together.
"That's what I'm here for," James said. "I'm here to win championships, and you're not always going to be on the successful side. I've seen it twice, not being on the successful side."
He was just 22 at the end of his fourth year in the league when he carried to the Cavs to their first finals appearance. But there were holes in his game, from an unreliable jump shot to an undeveloped post game, and the Spurs took advantage of every one of them.
James shot 36 percent in the series, including a ghastly 10 for 30 in Game 4, and committed 23 turnovers.
"Well, LeBron is a different player than he was in `07," Popovich said. "That was like ancient history. He was basically a neophyte at the time, wondering how all this stuff worked and how it's put together. We were very fortunate at that time to get him so early. But at this point he's grown."
James wasn't interested in discussing much of that series, but he recalled the way the Spurs' strategy kept him from getting into the paint and dared him to shoot jumpers.
There's no blueprint now that would encourage a guy who made 56.5 percent of his shots this season to shoot the ball.
"If you go under 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 just more confident in my ability to shoot the ball.
"But at the same time, I also have a lot more weapons this time around going against this team, where in `07 they loaded three guys to me a lot on the strong side of the floor. So like I said, I'm a better player, and you can't dare me to do anything I don't want to do in 2013."
Duncan and James probably wouldn't have thought it would take so long to see each other in the finals again after their meeting in the hallway of Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena. San Antonio had built a quiet dynasty, winning four titles in nine years, and the core of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili would keep giving the Spurs chances.
But they couldn't get out of the West even while finishing with the best record in the conference the last two years, just as Cleveland couldn't in the East during James' last two seasons there.
"I hoped to be back here. Whether he would he here or not, I couldn't predict that," the 37-year-old Duncan said. "Knowing the player that he was then and the trajectory he was on, I had no doubt he would be back here. I had no doubt he would be tops in this league at some point. And I'm glad and honored to be back here playing against him."
The Spurs have been off since finishing a sweep of Memphis on May 27. The Heat were forced to overcome a rugged Indiana team and the struggles of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in a seven-game series that wrapped up Monday.
That set up a finals between teams built in decidedly different ways but with mutual respect. While others around the league seethed, Popovich even called Pat Riley to offer congratulations after the Heat architect signed James and Bosh in 2010.
It gives James a chance to pay the Spurs back for their 2007 romp, when they forced the Cavaliers into the worst offensive performance in finals history.
"I believe that after that finals he probably always obviously wanted to get back again. But I think he probably always wanted to get back and play them," 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."
The Spurs' Big Three didn't have to endure the same wait to win. Duncan won a title in just his second season, and Parker was only 21 when he earned his first. Yet eventually they stalled, so they're as eager for this opportunity as James.
"When I was 21 and I won my first one, it was kind of fast and we think it's going to happen every year. We think it's easy. But after a lot of years in the league, you realize it's really hard to go to the finals," Parker said. "Now we take nothing for granted. We appreciate every moment, and we'll see what happens." ---
Kelly pitched into the sixth inning, but Maikel Cleto surrendered a grand slam to Paul Goldschmidt in the seventh and the Cardinals lost 10-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"I was just trying to go out there and give the team everything I could," Kelly said. "I was happy with it."
Kelly yielded two runs, one earned, and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander struck out two and walked one.
"We really needed that," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "His sinker was good and that was probably the best changeup I've seen him throw."
The Cardinals used five relievers in a 7-6 loss in 14 innings against Arizona on Tuesday. Kelly, who was starting because of a hole in the rotation caused by a day-night doubleheader Saturday, needed to go as deep as possible into Wednesday's game.
After making 16 consecutive relief appearances to begin the year, Kelly threw a season-high 80 pitches against the Diamondbacks and left with the game tied at 1.
Goldschmidt hit his second slam in five days and Wade Miley bounced back from his two worst outings of the season to lead Arizona to its fourth win in six tries against St. Louis this season.
Arizona has won four of five. St. Louis, with the best record in the majors, dropped back-to-back games for the first time since April 28-29.
Goldschmidt became the first Arizona player with two slams on the same road trip. He also hit one in a 12-4 win at the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
"Sometimes you come through and sometimes you don't," he said. "I just show up and try to take a good at-bat."
Goldschmidt also had a go-ahead single in the 14th inning to beat St. Louis on Tuesday night. He has a team-best 14 homers and leads the NL with 53 RBIs, including 12 in his last five games.
"I feel like every time I come up there I have men on base," said Goldschmidt, who went 2 for 5 to raise his batting average to .336. "I've had a lot of opportunities."
Although Goldschmidt is uncomfortable talking about his exploits, Arizona manager Kirk Gibson is happy to sing his praises.
"He's on a roll and he's really carrying us," Gibson said. "He's got a great approach up there. He's a huge cog for us and he's getting better."
Goldschmidt's offense helped Miley (4-5) get back on track. He gave up three runs and 11 hits over 6 2-3 innings after allowing seven earned runs in each of his previous two starts.
"I just went out and pitched and tried not to think about anything," Miley said. "Go right at the guys and get ahead. I wanted to get as deep into the game as I could."
Martin Prado had two doubles and scored twice for the Diamondbacks. Willie Bloomquist added two hits.
The Diamondbacks' 10-run outburst is their most in St. Louis since scoring 17 runs on April 17, 2001.
Matt Carpenter had four hits for the Cardinals, running his career-best hitting streak to 14 games.
The Diamondbacks erupted for five runs in the seventh to make it 7-1. Wil Nieves had an RBI single before Goldschmidt hit his 421-foot slam.
Gerardo Parra keyed Arizona's three-run eighth with a two-run single.
David Freese extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games with a single in the St. Louis sixth. It's the longest current run in the majors.
NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 46 minutes by rain. ....St. Louis C Yadier Molina served a one-game suspension Wednesday. He was ejected for bumping umpire Mike Everitt on Sunday. Molina, who was originally going to appeal the decision, caught all 14 innings in a 7-6 loss to Arizona on Tuesday. ... St. Louis rookie RHP Shelby Miller (6-3, 1.82 ERA) will face Ian Kennedy (3-3, 4.74 ERA) on Thursday in the final game of the four-game series.
The National Weather Service has increased the number of tornadoes that touched down in the St. Louis are last week to nine.
The largest and most damaging of the twisters was the EF-3 that cut a 32 mile path of destruction through St. Charles County and north St. Louis County.
Another EF-3 tornado his ripped through Roxana, Illinois, doing serious damage to the landfill. Macoupin County was hit by EF-2 and EF-1 twisters, with one severely damaging a high school gym in Gillispie.
Additionally, there were two EF-1 tornadoes in Franklin and Jefferson Counties, and three EF-0 tornadoes in Montgomery County
ST. LOUIS (AP) - The FBI is seeking help from the public in the search for two suspects allegedly involved in a four-state auto theft ring.
The FBI says that since 2008, more than 100 vehicles were fraudulently obtained from Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. Authorities are searching for two men believed to live in St. Louis city or county: Reginald Dante McNeary and Morris Allen Davis. Both are considered armed and dangerous.
Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 314-589-2500 or CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS.