He had 37 points and 12 rebounds against San Antonio, won the Finals MVP award and snuffed out the critical fire that
almost continually rings the NBA’s best player.
The championship sun finally broke through for him a year ago but the clouds moved in quickly after his shoddy Game 5 performance last Sunday (eight-for-22 shooting, 25 points).
So he posted a triple-double in the Heat’s Game 6 overtime victory and was strong again in Game 7, continually delivering daggers with his outside touch.
James’s gain was Tim Duncan’s loss. The veteran was going for his fifth title in as many trips to the Finals, trying to get San Antonio its first since 2007. Neither happened.
James, meanwhile, tried to exhort his teammates in a pre-game speech captured by TV cameras.
“They say hard work pays off, man,” he said in the team huddle outside the locker room. “So let’s make that statement come true.”
James started out one for five but heated up midway through the second quarter and never really stopped.
He made 12 of 23 shots and was five-for-10 from three-point range. His 19-footer gave the Heat a 92-88 edge with 27.9 seconds left. His steal off an ill-advised Manu Ginobili pass gave the Heat the ball back. His free throws put the Heat up six with 23.5 seconds left.
A second consecutive championship was his.
There were two surprising on-court absences for the Heat —Chris Bosh and Ray Allen were each scoreless — but Dwyane Wade had 23 points and Shane Battierhad 18 points, making six of eight three-point attempts.
“Just filling the cup up again basically,” he said. “That was a devastating loss [in Game 6]. To say anything less than that would be disingenuous.”
Danny Green set a Finals record through only five games with 25 three-pointers but faded from there, scoring eight total points over the next two games.
Tony Parker (10 points) made only three of 12 shots Thursday and Ginobili had three costly fourth-quarter turnovers.
Duncan had 24 points and Kawhi Leonard had 19 for the Spurs.
James has been able tune out all the negatives, be it media criticism, his own poor play earlier this series, whatever crisis happens to be circling over the Heat on a given day.
“Practice. That’s the world he’s lived in,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This was an adjustment for us three years ago when we always looked out into a sea of [media] people like this. LeBron was doing that since he was in seventh grade.
“So he probably knows how to manage this world better than any of us before he even got to us.”
Now more than ever, it’s James’s world. All other NBA stars are merely living in it.