The Miami Heat used a barrage of threes, an all-encapsulating triple-double from the best player going on planet Earth right now, LeBron James, and whatever unbelievable well of shooting and pain tolerance Mike Miller tapped into to become the rightful 2012 NBA champions. The Oklahoma City Thunder, a team with really more promise for the future (and now some experience, too) than just about any franchise in the league simply lost the steam to keep up, and as Dwyane Wade said of the Dallas Mavericks a year ago in a post game press conference last night, it was just the Heat’s time.
Everyone, from Norris Cole to Juwan Howard’s clutch carrying of James off the floor in Game Four to Chris Bosh playing the near-perfect hybrid-center on both ends of the floor, contributed something. From Shane Battier knocking down basically any three in his sight as the rising action to Miller’s unlikely and uplifting rapid-fire in Game Five as the climax, to Wade stepping in as needed or when the opportunity struck but never in a tangled way with Miami’s life force, James. Everyone played a role to perfection, or perfection-enough.
The Heat, if they weren’t expected to win these Finals, weren’t expected to win because they didn’t have as complete or well-shaped team as Oklahoma City. The Thunder have the three-headed monster, capable bigs and paint defenders, perimeter defensemen, shooters, and a coach pressing the right buttons at the right time. The Thunder may have all that, but there was no stopping the way the Heat as a team peaked together, every player rising to almost every occasion with the correct rotation, drained open look, or timely play again and again and again.
Sometimes, as Wade said, it’s just time. For LeBron James, as his perfect quote to understate his ride to this point as NBA champion and Finals M.V.P. went, “It’s about damn time.” Maybe it was inevitable that last night’s imagery — James hoisting both trophies with a deep, exhaled smile — was going to happen, but it didn’t hinder the feeling of happiness in watching someone, and, both by extension of him and because of their own tired paths to get to the NBA Finals champion’s stage, James’s teammates and coaches, get what they so desperately wanted for so long after doing everything in their power to get it the right way, after absorbing life lessons and learning from mistakes along the beaten path.
James didn’t just win a championship by default. He took last year’s bitter ending, and over-the-top beginning, and learned. He went out and took it all, instead of expecting it, from his more-pronoucned leadership to a necessary schooling on a post game that sure came in handy to simply just coming up big as hell when his team needed him to be the best player on the floor. When the time came, there was never a question about that. For me, more than anything else, it’s about the basketball. Under expectations that grow on a whim, James and his Miami Heat won a title playing a level of basketball that couldn’t be touched or kept up with. For once, there’s nothing left on James’s or the Heat’s season checklists — the true sign of a journey completed in full.
Don’t be happy for James if you insist. Bemoan this or that and mumble something about a “super-team” if it makes you feel better. What it won’t do, what nothing really can do, though, is take the shine off this title. The Heat didn’t waltz in and wait for the championship ceremony to start. They did last year, and it failed. This season, when the pressure was the highest, Miami played the best. LeBron James — from his breathtaking Game Six masterpiece against the Boston Celtics when everything was on the brink of ruin to last night’s fitting triple-double — played the unquestionably best. The Miami Heat will rightfully enjoy this, and for any fan of the game of basketball to squander this chance at appreciating the beauty of the sport and, more importantly, the people it can forge out of its lessons and long, winding roads to success, would only serve as a bigger disappointment, to view this moment through the lenses of hate or sour grapes, as time goes on.
What the Heat just finished, what LeBron James capped off, was incredible both because of who was involved, what was at stake, and how it was done. Miami won a championship about as right as a team can win one. James ascended to the top of basketball hierarchy, not with a nickname but with numbers and moments that will live forever. It was their time because they made it their time. If you’re looking for something more than that in a champion, you’re probably not looking at all.
Griffin Gotta contributes to The Hoop Doctors and is a co-managing editor of Straight Outta Vancouver on SB Nation. The story arcs and infinite weirdness of the NBA are addictions he deals with every day. Email him at griffingotta at gmail dot com.