It's time for complete candor among us: Once upon a time, rooting for LeBron James felt like cheering for General Electric or Exxon Mobil — too big, too mighty, too haughty to embrace — but that feeling has receded in the last year or so.

Eric Spoelstra suggested last night that his incandescent star didn't do anything to change the old perceptions — the rest of us did. The Miami coach said last summer's title didn't validate James as a person, or change his allure, or make him more charming. It merely made everyone look at him differently, because, well, we're pretty shallow that way.

Accept that judgment if you'd like — and Spo certainly knows James as well as anyone, after 30 months together — but there's something else about James that we find appealing, and it goes beyond him being one of the athletic wonders of the world.

No, it's easier to root for him because the bigger he gets, the more humbled he seems by it; with each passing season, the more appreciative he seems to be for his special gifts, and more comfortable in his own skin. No, this doesn't in any way affirm his greatness. It just makes him easier to like.

"He has a great perspective on his journey, of where he is," Spoelstra said before the Heat mashed the Nets into a fine pulp again, 105-85, in Miami's only visit to Barclays. "I see him as grateful as any star player — in any sport — that's played at his level. He's getting better, but he's humble about it, he's grateful about it."

Two things happened in the past week to illustrate this, and they had little to do with basketball.

There was a moment in Miami Friday, when a fan swished a half-court fling to win $75,000. The AAA crowd went nuts, but the crescendo was James running out to greet the guy like he was a relative who was presumed lost at sea — jumping into the arms of this middle-aged stranger from Illinois, landing on top of him like he was a tackling dummy, and rolling around the floor with him.