LeBron James might not be Michael Jordan. He might not even be Kobe Bryant. But the Miami Heat superstar resoundingly showed in Game 7 of the NBA Finals Thursday night that he and his team are heads above the basketball world.
Performing with an unconquerable will against the relentless San Antonio Spurs, James elevated his status in capturing his second championship and second finals MVP in the Heat’s 95-88 win that sent south Florida into a celebratory frenzy.
James, allowed to shoot from the perimeter, imploded the Spurs’ strategy, repeatedly burying open jump shots en route to 37 points in a benchmark performance. He was 12 for 23 from the floor, including 5 of 10 from three-point range.
“I work on my game a lot, throughout the offseason,” said James. “I put a lot of work into (perimeter shooting) and to be able to come out here and (have) the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate. The ultimate. I’m at a loss for words.”
A lot had to happen for Miami to win the title, and James was involved in most of it. Down by 2 in the final moment, San Antonio future Hall of Famer power forward Tim Duncan missed in the lane from point-blank range on an attempt to tie the score.
The Heat called timeout on the other end, and when play resumed, James drilled another jumper, this one a 17-footer from the right-wing that gave Miami a four-point cushion that was tantamount to a dozen in the nip-and-tuck battle.The Spurs were done.Usually composed, they disintegrated.
Manu Ginobilli, who played as if he was unaware of the stakes, fired up an airball and turned over the ball twice in disheartening fashion. Danny Green was stifled by the Heat defense and gave up the ball on poor passes off penetration. Tony Parker, who had some nice moments, was silenced by James in the biggest moments.
It was a devastating result for the Spurs, who had a Game 6 five-point lead with just 21 seconds left before squandering it and falling in overtime.
With a chance to win it in the final game of the NBA season, James created a memory. Best of all for the Heat, James was ably aided by a host of his crew. Dwyane Wade had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Shane Battier, a defensive and three-point specialist who had been benched earlier in the series, fired in six three pointers that were all crucial to the Heats’ cause.
“It took everything we had as a team,”Wade said. “Credit to the San Antonio Spurs, they’re an unbelievable team, an unbelievable franchise. This is the hardest series we ever had to play. But we’re a resilient team and we did whatever it took.”
So James has two champions now. He still has a ways to go to catch Jordan, who has six rings, and Bryant, who has five.
But he is well on his way.