MIAMI – LeBron James can rest as long as he wants.
He’s now a two-time NBA champion and a two-time Finals MVP.
After 2 years of almost-constant basketball, James still found a way to be at his absolute best in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. He scored 37 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and simply controlled everything down the stretch, as the Heat won the title with a 95-88 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
Two days after helping the Heat survive a wild Game 6 in overtime, James’ final numbers went like this: 12-for-23 from the field, 5-for-10 from 3-point range, 8-for-8 from the line.
Dwyane Wade scored 23 points, and Shane Battier – benched earlier in these playoffs – had 18 on six 3-pointers for the Heat, who won despite no points from Chris Bosh.
It didn’t matter. James was good enough to mask any problem the Heat had Thursday night.
He rarely acknowledges this much, but James has to be exhausted. He worked out furiously during the lockout in 2011, a season that began on Dec. 25, 2011. The Heat went through the rigors of that ultra-compacted 66-game schedule and won a title.
James went right into training with USA Basketball, eventually helping that team win a gold medal at the London Olympics. After that, he took about 2 weeks off, then started getting ready for this season, which went all the way down to the last possible day.
And yet there he was, a second straight championship at stake, taking the jumper with 27.9 seconds left that made it a two-possession game at 92-88. He marched back to the Heat huddle, punching the air.
“Practice,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, when asked how James makes his life work under constant scrutiny. “That’s the world he’s lived in. This was an adjustment for us 3 years ago when we always looked out into a sea of people like this. I’ll still always remember that first training camp. 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.”
On the possession after James made the jumper for the late four-point lead, he got into the passing late and intercepted a ball thrown wildly by San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili with 23.5 seconds left and was immediately fouled.
That was the Spurs’ last gasp. It was over. The Heat reign will continue for another year, and so will James’ spot as the unquestioned best player in the world.
“This is the hardest series we ever had to play,” said Heat guard Dwyane Wade. “This is what it’s all about.”
James will be getting married this summer. Another ring ceremony awaits him this fall, when Miami tries for a three-peat.
And a season that began with the addition of Ray Allen to a championship core, saw a 27-game winning streak, even a “Harlem Shake” video that broke up some needed midseason tension, and it ended with Miami in the same place it was a year ago – on top of the basketball world.