After nine years in the league and two previously failed attempts in the NBA Finals — one with Cleveland, and last year with Miami — LeBron 'King' James finally has his first NBA championship.
James finished Game 5 on Thursday night with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to lead his team with a triple-double in a Finals clinching game. The 121-106 rout of the Thunder also made Miami just the third team in the past 21 years to win all four of their remaining Finals games following a Game 1 loss — the last two being the 2001 Lakers and the 1991 Bulls.
With the struggles and embarrassment that have emerged from last year's 'Decision,' along with losing in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks last summer, James and the Heat have not only matured as people, but have ripened as an admirable team.
"Losing in the Finals last year put me back in place…it humbled me a lot," said James following the win. "I looked in the mirror and said you need to be better."
Teammate Dwyane Wade, who finished with 20 points, expressed the same sentiment.
"I think this team, we had so much pain, hurt and embarrassment from last season…from Christmas day we were on a mission. And that mission was not complete until tonight. We made a decision two years ago to become a team. You gotta do what you gotta do to reach your goal…at the end of the day we all had one common goal, and that's to become champions."
The 'king' that finally gets his coronation — which included being awarded the NBA Finals MVP — also described what his first championship truly means to him.
"It means everything. I made the difficult decision to leave Cleveland but understood what my future was about, coming to Miami…I knew we had a bright future…this is a dream come true for me. Today is the happiest day of my life. This is a dream come true."
And James wasn't the only hero deserving of an ordination. In fact, there were six Heat players in total that finished the game in double-figures.
Chris Bosh not only finished with 24 points, but an unlikely hero in Mike Miller led a charge from downtown that stunned everyone, draining seven 3-pointers on his way to 23 points. In a game that really only had it's competitive moments in the first half, it was Miller's hot hand that really pulled Miami away in the second. Mario Chalmers added 10 points, while Shane Battier chipped in 11.
32 points from the Thunder's Kevin Durant and 19 a piece from Russell Westbrook and James Harden would never be enough for a 'W' when the Heat catch fire from behind the arc like they did on Thursday. I guess you could say the Heat were on fire in more ways than one. Still, being just the second youngest team to ever reach the Finals, rest assured the Oklahoma City will be back.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks stated after the game, "We've improved a lot the last three or four years. They just have to keep building and working…they love the game of basketball."
LeBron critics from coast to coast may have to bite their tongues after this one. Not only does King James finally have a ring, but he joins an elite group of only nine other players — all hall-of-famers — who have won the regular season MVP and the NBA Finals MVP. He averaged an unheard of 30 points and 10 rebounds throughout the entire 2012 playoffs, and also joins just two other men, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan, who have led their championship teams in the Finals in points, rebounds and assists.
And if that's not enough, just for good measure, LeBron also helped a long-time veteran earn his first ring. After 18 years in the league, 39-year-old Juwan Howard also got his first championship on Thursday night.
Now I'm not royalty, but I'm confident I know a king being crowned when I see it.
Congratulations LeBron. This may be the happiest moment of your life, but considering we still have yet to see what your official kingdom has to unfold, this could all just be the beginning. And that's the best part.
Photo Credit: AP