LeBron James said doubters have fuelled his drive for success after leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their first NBA championship since 2010.
James was crowned Finals MVP for a fourth time as the Lakers outclassed the Miami Heat 106-93 for a 4-2 series triumph at Walt Disney World Resort on Sunday.
Lakers superstar James celebrated a fourth league title after posting his 11th Finals triple-double of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in Orlando, Florida.
It is his first championship with the Lakers, having struggled for form and fitness during his maiden season in Los Angeles in 2018-19.
James – who set the record for most postseason appearances with 260 – had a point to prove this season and the 35-year-old capped it with championship and MVP honours.
Often compared to Hall of Famer and six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan as his position among the greats is debated, James told reporters post-game: "I think personally thinking I have something to prove fuels me.
"It fuelled me over this last year and a half since the injury. It fuelled me because no matter what I've done in my career to this point, there's still little rumblings of doubt or comparing me to the history of the game and has he done this, has he done that.
"So having that in my head, having that in my mind, saying to myself, why not still have something to prove, I think it fuels me."
James is the first player in NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL history to win the Finals MVP with three different teams, having also received the honour with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, per Stats Perform.
In his 17th season, James moved clear of Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan with a fourth Finals MVP – now only trailing Michael Jordan (six).
James is the fourth player all-time to score 30,000-plus points and win four or more championships. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tops the list with 38,387 points and six titles, ahead of Michael Jordan (32,292 points and six titles) and Kobe Bryant (33,643 points and five titles).
The Lakers' 17th championship came amid the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the 2019-20 season to be suspended in March before resuming behind closed doors inside the Orlando bubble in July.
James and the top-seeded Lakers overcame the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Heat en route to a memorable title.
"I can't sit here and say one is more challenging than the other or one is more difficult than the other," James said when asked to compare the difficulty of his championships. "I can just say that I've never won with this atmosphere. None of us have. We've never been a part of this. If you've been here throughout the start -- I mean, we got here July 9th. Our ballclub got here July 9th. It's October 11th now.
"So this was very challenging and difficult. It played with your mind. It played with your body. You're away from some of the things that you're so accustomed to make you be the professional that you are. This is right up there.
"I heard some rumblings from people that are not in the bubble, oh, you don't have to travel, whatever. People just doubting what goes on in here. This is right up there with one of the greatest accomplishments I've had."
James and fellow All-Star Anthony Davis combined to end the Lakers' wait for glory, with the latter tasting success for the first time in his maiden season since joining from the New Orleans Pelicans in a blockbuster deal at the start of the campaign.
"I can't really explain it," James replied when asked about his relationship with Davis. "There's just certain things you just know. And any type of relationship, you know that vibe. You have that respect. You have that drive. Sometimes you can't explain what links you with somebody, and then it's that organic.
"Sometimes, you don't even try to explain it. You guys ask me about my relationship with AD, the first thing I think about is the respect, the no ego, the challenging each other. We want each other to be better than actually ourselves.
"I want AD to be better than me. AD want me to be better than him. Every single night, every single day. And we challenge ourselves. I think that's a part of it."