The “A” story of the 2012 NBA Finals is obvious: Lebron James won his first NBA Championship. Today, billions of words will be written about things like exoneration, retribution, and legacy regarding King James. However, anyone with a macro-perspective on LBJ and the sports media as a whole knows it’s going to take more than one successful trip to the Promised Land for Lebron to cement his place in history and achieve his highest goals as a professional. After all, it was James himself who told us “…not 5, not 6, not 7….”, and understandably so for an individual who could be regarded as the most genetically gifted athlete in American sports history.
When I watched The Miami Heat dismantle the precocious Oklahoma City Thunder this past week, I was honestly bored by the idea that Lebron was winning his first title. In all honesty, did any person realistically think that he was going to finish his NBA career without a title? After the game, Lebron himself said it best: "It's about damn time." He was clearly the best player in the NBA this season, the best player in these NBA playoffs, and no one was surprised when he was named Finals MVP. Lebron finally played like Lebron, which is why everyone got on his case in the first place. People just want to see greatness when it matters, and Lebron finally gave the people what they wanted.
The strongest and simultaneously most endearing narrative that jumped out to me was that The Miami Heat played like a championship team. Their dominance wasn't just a result of Lebron's greatness, his BFF D.Wade (the Scottie to Lebron's Michael), or the overlooked and often awkward Chris Bosh. It was about all of the things that Miami lacked a year ago: chemistry, camaraderie, confidence in each other, and unmatched will to win. For players like Mike Miller and Shane Battier, it was about compartmentalizing the pain of plaguing injuries and nearly two dozen combined seasons ending in disappointment, knocking down clutch 3 after clutch 3 (after clutch 3, after clutch 3....), and playing relentless defense against a group with twice their athletic ability. For younger players like Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, it was about combining their youthful exuberance with the pervasive maturity they seemed to draw from their veteran teammates. Even the much-maligned Coach Spo carried himself with a certain patience and quiet distinction, something he acknowledged as being a result of the turbulent 2011 season.
There was no "Big 3". There weren't those tentative moments between James and Wade where they couldn't decide whose turn it was to make a play. It didn't matter which line-up was on the floor (Bosh played center basically the entire series), they played as a unit. It didn't matter who had the ball in their hands, they were all aggressive and fearless. It didn't matter who the open shooter was, they all caught and shot with confidence and weren't surprised when the 3's continued to fall.
At one point, my roommate noted that this 2012 Miami Heat team was displaying the same will and desire to win that the 2011 Dallas Mavericks channeled just 12 months ago. I regarded it as "The Look Of A Team Whose Wives and Children Would Be Shot If They Lost This Game” (Ed. Note: I’m calling this the “Chris Benoit look”). An intense metaphor, but it's the most poignant way I could describe a group of men who would not let ANYTHING stand in the way of their common goal. It evoked the spirit of Rudy Tomjanovich's famous line "Never underestimate the heart of a champion." It no longer felt like The Team That Free Agency Built. Every guy on that roster earned their ring, and the right to be called an NBA champion. Except Eddy Curry.
- J Fonts