NBA Finals: 'Believe in LeBron': James has last laugh

2013-06-22T00:00:00Z NBA Finals: 'Believe in LeBron': James has last laughThe Associated Press The Associated Press
June 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

MIAMI - Suddenly, LeBron James' oft-mocked suggestion of multiple titles - "not two, not three, not four" - during the Miami Heat's celebration of its free agency coup in 2010 doesn't look like a punch line anymore.

By topping San Antonio in Game 7 of a back-and-forth NBA Finals, the Heat became the sixth franchise in league history to win consecutive championships. It's Miami's third title overall; only four clubs have more. And for James, it capped two seasons where he won all he could - two regular-season MVPs, two titles, two Finals MVPs, an Olympic gold medal.

"It feels great," he said. "This team is amazing. And the vision that I had when I decided to come here is all coming true. Through adversity, through everything we've been through, we've been able to persevere and to win back-to-back championships."

"Believe in LeBron," Heat president Pat Riley said.

Miami did, all the way.

The Heat rolled past Milwaukee in a first-round sweep, needed five games to oust Chicago in the second round, but then went to the seven-game limit against Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals and then to the last game again against the Spurs, who were 21 seconds away from ending the series in six games before James and the Heat engineered a rally.

"To be in the championship three years in a row … is unbelievable," Dwyane Wade said. "Everybody can't get to the Finals and … win six and not lose one like Michael Jordan. … We're going to do everything we can to make sure that we can stay competitive."

The Heat will be favored to win it all again in 2014, but Miami has some luxury-tax concerns to address and must get better through trades or free agency to hold off Oklahoma City and others.

Then again, if James keeps getting better, Miami's place in history will probably only rise.

The 6-foot-8-inch, 250-pound James has an unmatched combination of size, speed and strength. After Miami lost the 2011 finals to Dallas, James worked with Hakeem Olajuwon on his post play. Last season, his focus was on enhancing his mid-range jumper.

So with about a half-minute left and the Heat up by two points, it was that mid-range jumper that sealed Miami's title. James delivered with 27.9 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.

"I want to be, if not the greatest, one of the greatest to ever play this game," James said. "And I will continue to work for that."

Jordan won six titles; James only has two. But if that's the sole standard, then Jordan isn't close either, considering Bill Russell won 11 rings in his Boston career.

Including playoffs, James scoring average is 27.6, third-best in league history behind only Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. James got more rebounds per game in his 10th season than ever before, shot threes better than ever before, punctuating that by making five in Game 7 of the finals. And for the sixth straight year, his shooting percentage got better.

"Hopefully people will leave him alone a little more now," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "He takes a lot of heat, I think undeservedly. He's the best player on the planet."

Rim shots

• Miami will have its parade Monday, and city officials say fans will not be allowed to carry backpacks. An estimated 400,000 packed the route last season after the Heat won the 2012 title.

Game 7 is rated 2nd-best among all Finals games on ABC

The Heat's Game 7 win over the San Antonio Spurs drew the second-most viewers for the NBA Finals on ABC since the network took over the series in 2003.

26.3 million

The average number of people who watched Game 7 on Thursday night

28.2 million

The average number of people who watched Game 7 of the Lakers/Celtics Finals in 2010

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