Hugging the world championship trophy, LeBron James was all smiles Thursday night.
He earned that elated feeling.
“It’s about damn time,” James said.
The one who waited nine years to win an NBA title no longer has to do so.
LeBron James can now be called a champion after leading the Miami Heat to an NBA title. The Heat sealed the finals series, 4-1, by winning Game 5 in dominant fashion, 121-106, against the Oklahoma City Thunder at American Airlines Arena.
This journey truly began the night of his greatest individual playoff performance – May 31, 2007, Game 5, Eastern Conference Finals, The Palace, Auburn Hills, Mich.
With the series tied 2-2, James willed the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 109-107 double-overtime win against the Detroit Pistons by scoring 48 points. He scored Cleveland’s final 25 points.
It’s the best playoff performance I’ve ever seen in person. It was so good, Michael Jordan came out and praised James for his play.
It also started the championship clock.
From that moment, James was elevated to an even higher level. He was no longer just this freak of nature athlete with incredible talent.
That performance put him in the conversation of being considered one of the greatest players ever. With that came the expectation of having to win an NBA championship.
So every year he failed to win it all, the pressure grew, but he had some buffers early in this process.
At first, the Cavaliers were under pressure to surround James with better players. Each year, they added talent.
Once they did that, the pressure was on coach Mike Brown to put it all together. Then after Cleveland finished with the NBA’s best regular-season record, all the pressure fell on James to deliver.
When he didn’t against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 conference finals or the Boston Celtics in the 2010 conference semifinals, James found himself not only needing to win an NBA title, but falling deeper into the idea that he’ll never win one.
So when he left Cleveland for South Beach to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James had to win a title. This was more than “win or go home.”
It was win or forever be criticized for leaving Cleveland, for not being able to win a title and for fooling us to believe he was a great as we all wanted to make him out to be.
By winning Thursday night, James can at least now show that his game is beyond stats. His game is beyond being physically gifted.
His game can win a title.
James can now work toward getting the Heat on the kind of championship roll that will have those “not five, not six, not seven” words he coined during the celebration of his arrival to Miami coming to fruition.
Let this new journey begin.