We all remember our first times. Our first bike ride. Our first day at school. Our first kiss. Our first date. Our first car. Our first job. We never forget those first-time moments.
For LeBron James, June 21, 2012, will be a date that will live in his mind forever. The three-time NBA MVP and regarded as the best basketball player in the world can finally add another title to his resume — champion.
“It’s about damn time,” said the man who goes by the nickname King James.
It happened Thursday night in Miami as the Heat crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder, 121-106. After nine seasons, two epic failures in The Finals, and a ton of criticism for leaving Cleveland in 2010, James finally walked off the court as a member of the best team in the league.
“It’s everything and more. I dreamed about this moment, this opportunity, for a long time. Including last night, including today. My dream has become a reality now. Best feeling I’ve ever had,” said James, who was named The Finals MVP. He averaged 28 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in five games.
LeBron capped off his historic playoff run with a game for the ages. In the series clincher against OKC, James posted a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists. He joined Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, James Worthy, and Tim Duncan as the only ones to accomplish that feat.
Even though the Heat — which also boasts All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — have had arguably the best team in the NBA the last two seasons they were the most scrutinized team in the world and LeBron was the most vilified player in the league. But last year’s embarrassing loss to Dallas in The Finals, where he had numerous fourth-quarter meltdowns, taught LeBron a real important lesson.
“It took me to hit rock bottom before I knew what I needed to do,” he said. “I’m must happy to be put back in this position. I trusted my instincts, I trusted my habits that I’ve built over [nine years]. I just got back to being myself. I didn’t care too much what anyone said about me. Just kinda make my own path, but do it the right way.”
“The best thing that happened to me last year was lose in The Finals,” LeBron admitted. “For me, playing the way I played, it was the best thing that happened to me in my career. Because basically I got back to the basics. It humbled me and I knew what it was going to have to take. I was going to have to change as a basketball player and I was going to have to change as a person to get what I wanted.”
Bosh said nobody can completely comprehend what LeBron and the Heat went through last season unless you were there with the team when it lost in the 2011 NBA Finals.
“Nobody can understand what he went through, since the moment we came here. You know we’ve made decisions, good and bad, but throughout everything he deserves so much credit,” Bosh said of James, who was labeled a “choker” and accused of “shrinking” in the big games.
“He got back to being himself. I told him ‘Being yourself is good enough, you don’t have to prove anything to anybody. Play this game that you love, and everything will take care of itself.’ I don’t know if he really heard me, but I hope he took it to heart. I has worked out pretty well,” Bosh said.
“After last year we had a conversation, and we talked during the summer,” Bosh continued. “I asked him ‘What have you been doing? How are you?’ He pretty much said he hadn’t come out of his house.”
“I think it did that to all of us,” Bosh said of last year’s loss to Dallas. “We didn’t see the light of day because it hurt so much. Just to see the perseverance that he’s had and to witness everyday, day in and day out, his transgression as a leader and his will to win has been incredible. I mean just the playoff run that he’s had I’m just really proud to call myself a teammate of his.”
“It has been unbelievable to witness.”
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.