MIAMI – LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have faced plenty of adversity together and Thursday’s title-deciding seventh game of the NBA Finals was their biggest test yet.
“It’s the ultimate. I am at a loss for words,” James said of the Heat’s 95-88 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Thursday in the last game of the best-of-seven series.
“I am LeBron James from Akron, Ohio — from the inner city. I am not even supposed to be here.”
The Miami Heat dynasty is now officially off and running while the San Antonio Spurs let one slip away.
And in the end, James grabbed another championship ring and added his second NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award in a row to go with it, securing his place as one of the greatest players in NBA history.
James capped his season with a game-high 37 points and 12 rebounds as he became only the ninth player to win multiple NBA Finals MVP awards, joining Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan and Willis Reed.
He averaged 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and seven assists in the finals and had the highest-scoring NBA Finals seventh game since 1969 when Jerry West scored 42 points against the Boston Celtics.
Wade, who finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds Thursday, earned his third championship ring and is one of just two Heat players, along with Udonis Haslem, to be on all three Miami championship teams.
“We go through life so fast,” Wade said. “The championships I’ve won seem like they went past me so fast.
“Tonight I wanted to take a minute, take a moment and just soak it in. This is a special moment for me.”
James struggled to find his form early in the series but his overall performance was brilliant and even Jordan-like, especially the way he had to step outside his comfort zone on offense and take whatever the Spurs’ defenders would give him.
“I watched film, and my mind started to work and I said, ‘OK, this is how they’re going to play me for the whole series.’
“I looked at all my regular-season stats, all my playoff stats, and I was one of the best mid-range shooters in the game. I shot a career high from the 3-point line.
“I just told myself, ‘Don’t abandon what you’ve done all year. Don’t abandon now because they’re going under. Don’t force the paint. If it’s there, take it. If not, take the jumper.’
“I did a good job in game four. I didn’t make as many shots as I would like to from the outside in game five, but I kept on getting into the rhythm of it, just telling myself that everything you’ve worked on, the repetition, the practices, the off-season training, no matter how big the stakes are, no matter what’s on the line, just go with it. And I was able to do that.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in game seven it came down to James’ mid- and long-range jump shot.
“As the series went on, he realized that was the shot that was going to be open and in the biggest game, the biggest moment, those are the shots that he hit,” Spoelstra said. “And those were the difference tonight.”
The Heat needed a miraculous comeback to win game six in overtime against the Spurs to earn the title, which takes its place alongside Miami’s 2012 and 2006 championships over Oklahoma City and Dallas respectively.
“We are just getting started,” Heat guard Mario Chalmers said.
James said winning feels great but doesn’t get any easier.
“Last year when I was sitting up here, with my first championship, I said it was the toughest thing I had ever done,” James said.
“This year I’ll tell last year I was absolutely wrong. This was the toughest championship right here, between the two.
“I mean, everything that we’ve been through this post-season, especially in these finals. We were down every odd game.
“We were scratching for our lives in game six, down five with 28 seconds to go. To be able to win that game and force a game seven is a true testament of our perseverance and us being able to handle adversity throughout everything.”