A Crown for King James: Miami Heat win 2012 NBA Championship

When LeBron James ditched the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat on national television in 2010, the goal right from the start was to win championships. Multiple championships. Pairing superstar Dwyane Wade and power forward Chris Bosh, the Heat were the team to beat and instantly became the villains of the NBA. This pairing of the “Big Three” had been in the works for quite some time, going all the way back to 2007-2008 when the organization led by team president Pat Riley, scouted the 2010 NBA Free Agent list and from there, formulated a plan to lure James for less money, but ultimately provide him a better chance of getting what he desperately wanted the most: a ring and to finally become part of the elite club of champions.

For nine seasons, LeBron James heard criticism from everyone saying he wasn’t good enough to win a title on his own. Being the number one pick in the 2003 Draft and a lot of pressure to live up to expectation, his undeniable strength and athleticism on the court (also winning three career MVPs along the way) never got the recognition he deserved.

Swept in four games to the San Antonio Spurs in 2007, James would continue to be the butt of jokes concerning the fact that he might never be good enough. After falling to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010 would be the last time he wore a wine red jersey and left the heartbroken city of Cleveland to the warm sun of South Beach to play alongside his friends Wade and Bosh.

After a summer of red-hot coverage and predicitons that this new Heat team would surpass the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls and break their 72-10 record, the Heat stumbled out of the gate with an opening day loss to the Celtics. The rest of the year would be a complete roller coaster ride, blowout wins and fancy SportsCenter quality highlights followed by a six-game losing streak and controversy of players crying in the locker room showed the world that the Heat were indeed mortal.

No one was surprised when they reached the Finals that year, but no one really suspected the Dallas Mavericks to really school them on what playing team basketball was all about. During that series, James was criticized for not stepping up to the challenge and often stood around hoping for something to work out, cause hell they were the Miami Heat, they are supposed to win championships. After the Mavericks took home the title, James and the entire Heat team knew that this bitter end to the season simply could not happen again. They added role players to contribute in key situations like Shane Battier and electric rookie Norris Cole and worked hard in a lockout-shortened season to make it two straight Finals appearances.

For the Oklahoma City Thunder, a young squad of very talented players took their rightful place atop of the Western Conference. Only winning 24 games four years ago, the Thunder have become the model franchise that drafts talented and skilled players that mesh together to form a fierce team. With three-straight scoring leader Kevin Durant and the explosive Russell Westbrook with shot-blocker Serge Ibaka, the Thunder not only had the youngest roster in the league, but were equipped with a solid bench, led by Sixth Man of the Year James Harden and veteran Derek Fisher to make Oklahoma City a new haven for basketball.

This series between the Heat and Thunder simply came down to who wanted it more. It could have gone easily to seven games and for the most part was very close. Two star forwards, James and Durant going at it to be apart of history of greatness. The Heat could win because they had the James, Wade and Bosh doing much of the scoring and had the muscle to push you around. The Thunder could win because of their youth and never ending drive to keep going, even if they were down in late game situations.

The Miami Heat won because of LeBron James.

Go look back at his statistics in scoring in last years Finals to this year: 17 points a game then to averaging 28.6 points, 7.4 assists and 10.2 rebounds which are why he’s the Finals MVP. At times he looked simply unstoppable, he had a monster regular season and it only bled into the postseason, you could see it in his eyes. Even as the Heat were down 2-1 against the Pacers and 3-2 against the Celtics in the Eastern Finals, James took control when the team needed him most. He answered the call. He made the big shots, shots that looked so easy yet were awe-inspiring.

This series was about as evenly matched as it could be. The Thunder flexed their muscles in a convincing Game 1 victory in OKC. They weren’t going to let the Heat walk on them and like Miami had been all year-long, they responded. Their guys did what needed to be done and unfortunately for the Thunder, they had multiple chances late in games (like Games 3-4) to take the lead and hold on, but as young as they are they fell pray to making big time mistakes. Russell Westbrook will get much of the blame for how he handled himself, turning it over too many times and taking too many bad shots. Kevin Durant played fantastic throughout, but although this moment stings right now, this is the start of the Thunder officially becoming a powerhouse in the West.

OKC was in it for much of the way until Game 5 and Miami knew they were 48 minutes away from winning it all. They absolutely shredded the Thunder, building a lead as much as 27 points and scoring 80 points midway through the third quarter. The Heat got extra fire power from their bench and role players, Mike Miller was the hero as he scored 23 points off the bench and hit 7-8 three-pointers, all with a sore back and stepped up. Six players scored in double figures, with James leading with 26 Pts, 11 Reb, 13 Ast, 1 Stl and 2 Blks. Bosh contributed 24 Pts, 7 Reb and even sunk a three, and Wade scored a modest 20 Pts, 8 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl and 3 Blks. Shane Battier had 11 Pts and went 3-7 from deep as well as Mario Chalmers had 10 Pts and 7 Ast.

The Heat overpowered and overwhelmed the Thunder, forcing Westbrook to go 4-20 from the field and swarming defense was just too much. All Kevin Durant could do was 32 Pts, 11 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl but the rest of his team struggled to find an open shot, shooting 41% from the field compaired to 51% by Miami. Westbrook had 19 Pts but you can’t get over the 4-20 shooting with 6 Ast and James Harden with 19 Pts on 5-11 shooting. Derek Fisher was the only other player in double figures as the rest of the team failed to score more than ten points each.

So as the fanfare rains in Miami and the bloggers write about how we can stop criticizing LeBron, let’s hope that this is the start of a new rivalery that reminds us of the Bird/Magic days and hopefully won’t be the last that we see these two teams in the Finals again. As writer Tom Sunnergren put it simply: ” Round 1 went to James, but you get the sense that it was the first of many.

photo courtesy of slamonline.com