The Miami Heat organization now has two championship banners hanging in American Airlines Arena, and more importantly, LeBron James has finally won what he has coveted all these years — a championship title.
This Thursday, the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in a hard fought series between two of the league’s best, and it would not be a stretch to say that these two teams will be meeting in the finals for years to come.
James suffered much criticism ever since he signed with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010 when his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers expired and he became a free agent. He teamed up with Dwayne Wade who was already in Miami, and persuaded the talented Chris Bosh, who also came out of an expiring contract with the Toronto Raptors, to form “The Big Three.” The Big Three promised the city of Miami the allure of winning multiple championships as long as they were a part of the organization.
Unfortunately, things did not pan out the way as originally hoped in the 2011 season. The team had an impressive 58-24 record and made it all the way to the NBA Finals in the 2011 Playoffs, but they fell short to a very talented, smart Dallas Mavericks team led by Dirk Nowitzki.
It seemed as though the spotlight was on James after last season’s finals, when he was not the same player that he usually is, scoring only 17.8 points per game against Dallas. Whether you credit the Mavericks’ defense or blame James for his own undoing, his performance was subpar to what we’ve come to expect from one of the greatest players this game has ever seen.
James took the defeat particularly hard, and tried to focus on getting back to the basics of basketball for next season. He was in the gym all throughout the lockout that caused a very shortened 66-game season, and got back to playing the game that he loved for himself, not to prove anything to anyone.
“It took me to go all the way to the top and then hit rock bottom to realize what I needed to do as a professional athlete and as a person,” James said. “I was just happy I was able to get back to this position. I was happy I was able to do it the right way, and do it for myself and not for anyone else.”
“He kind of let us in on what it’s like to be LeBron James,” Wade said. “None of us really know. So I’m happy for him. I don’t know if I could be happier for another man to succeed in life like I’m happy for him. I know what he went through to get to this point.”
And he did so in miraculous fashion, averaging 27.1 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 6.2 assists per game and shooting an incredible 53.1 percent from the field en route to a 42-20 record in the 2011-2012 regular season, earning him third most valuable player honors.
The Heat faced two very tough opponents. In the first round they faced off against the Indiana Pacers, who tested the Heat physically and took them to 6 games before being eliminated. In the second round, it was the resilient Celtics that tested the Heat and took them to brink in a grueling 7-game series.
In the end, the Heat faced the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder in a final match-up. The Heat won a tough 5-game series in which James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game while shooting 47 percent from the field. In the final game, he finished with a triple-double with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in a truly dominant performance.
And you could see the emotion James displayed as he finally hoisted up his first Larry O’Brien trophy Thursday night, silencing the criticism he has received throughout his years. And what did James have to say about winning the championship? Simply: “It’s about damn time!”