LeBron James leads Miami Heat to second championship title in a row
After appearing to struggle early in the NBA finals, MVP LeBron James simply did whatever he wanted in game seven to drive the Heat to second title in a row
LeBron James can rest as long as he wants.
He is now a two-time NBA champion - and a two-time finals MVP.
After two years of almost-constant basketball, James still found a way to be at his absolute best in game seven of the NBA finals. He scored 37 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and controlled everything down the stretch, as the Heat won the title with a 95-88 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
"This is what it's all about," James said. "I came here to win championships and to be able to go back to back, two championships in three years, so far, it's the ultimate."
Two days after helping the Heat survive a wild game six in overtime, James' final numbers went like this: 12 for 23 from the field, 5 for 10 from 3-point range, 8 for 8 from the line.
And in a season where he was the league's MVP for a fourth time, he has now added a second ring to the collection. Suddenly, his résumé is looking as complete as some of the other all-time greats.
Here's a club: He joined Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the only players in league history to win back-to-back finals MVP and regular-season MVP awards.
"Listen, I can't worry about what everybody says about me," James said, as confetti fell around him. "I'm LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I'm not even supposed to be here. That's enough. Every night I walk into the locker room, I see a No6 with James on the back, I'm blessed. So what everybody says about me off the court, don't matter. I ain't got no worries."
Dwyane Wade scored 23 points and won his third NBA title. Shane Battier - benched earlier in these play-offs - had 18 on six 3-pointers and said "it's better to be timely than good", afterward. Mario Chalmers scored 14 for the Heat, who won despite no points from Chris Bosh.
It did not matter. James was good enough to mask any problem the Heat had. A series that started with three games of the Spurs supposedly bottling him up and solving the riddle of how to stop the MVP ended with him doing pretty much whatever he wanted.
"It became time," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He always rises to the occasion when it matters the most, when the competition is fiercest."
He rarely acknowledges this much, but James has to be exhausted. He worked out furiously in the lockout in 2011, in part because he convinced himself that the season would begin on time, in part because he was still smarting from how sub-par he played during the finals loss to the Mavericks in his first Heat season.
Last season began on December 25, 2011. The Heat went through the rigors of that ultra-compacted 66-game schedule and won a title. James went right into training with USA Basketball, eventually helping that team win a gold medal at the London Olympics. After that, he took two weeks off, then started getting ready for this season, which went all the way down to the last possible day. That is more basketball, under more pressure, than anyone else on the planet in the last two years.
James took all the criticism when the Heat lost those 2011 finals. He took all the criticism in 2010 as well, when the Heat welcomed him and Bosh as Wade's newest star teammates with a party that was planned long before James made his infamous "decision" to sign with the Heat.
Now he has won two titles and refuses to take all the credit.
"All it's about now is what's in front of us," Heat president Pat Riley said. "Not what's behind us. I wish people would stop talking about that. He's been to the finals three years in a row. He's won two championships, two MVPs. He definitely controlled the game tonight. I believe in LeBron."
There he was, a championship at stake, taking the jumper with 27.9 seconds left that made it a two-possession game and put the Heat on the cusp of a repeat. He marched back to the Heat huddle, punching the air. The score was 92-88, everyone in the sold-out building seemed to be standing, and a championship celebration was moments away.
Sure enough, it happened. "I put a lot of work into it and to come out here and see the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate, the ultimate," James said. "I'm at a loss for words."
Two years ago, James probably would not have taken that shot. Now, there is no way he would not. He drilled it, too, the ball going in with a soft swish for his 34th and 35th points.
"What he brings every night is unbelievable," Wade said.