MIAMI, Fla. — There are hundreds of photos in the Heat’s Championship Alley and tunnel to the floor, photos of joy and relief, photos of sweat and tears, photos from six long years ago.
Now the franchise will make room for others.
One above all.
LeBron James hugging the Larry O’Brien Trophy, breaking into the widest grin you’ve ever seen.
One player above all this 2011-12 season.
The doubts. The anger. The criticism. The competition.
LeBron James, labeled “The Chosen One” while still a teenager, is an NBA champion at the age of 27 in his ninth NBA season — the MVP of these Finals, to add to the MVP for this regular season.
“It’s about damn time,” James said.
For the Heat, after a 121-106 victory and a 4-1 series win, it’s time to hold a championship parade for the second time in its 24 years.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” James said.
It’s as if everything he and the Heat envisioned — when the two sides controversially came together in the summer of 2010, and after two years of sometimes-clumsy connections — became fully realized one perfect Thursday night.
There it was, in all its collaborative glory.
There was James controlling the action on both ends, recording his first triple-double in more than 12 months, doing whatever it took, whether it was a vicious dunk or a deft pass or a rugged rebound or dogged defense on Thunder superstar Kevin Durant.
There was Dwyane Wade, who said he wanted a title for James more than himself, weaving through Thunder defenders, out-leaping and outworking in pursuit of a second ring that further cements his place in history, a ring that he said would be sweeter than the first because of all he’d gone through since.
There was Chris Bosh, just two weeks after returning to the lineup from an abdominal injury that could have ended his season, shaking off any slams about softness, playing big in the biggest game.
There was Mike Miller, so much of his body and finally his back broken, draining seven threes, then fighting the pain to rise and recognize a standing ovation.
There was Shane Battier, finishing a strong series with another steady, brainy performance as the ideal complementary piece.
There was Mario Chalmers, never shrinking in the face of his teammates’ tough love, dishing out seven assists, adding an NBA title to those he won in college and high school.
And there was James.
There was James, who had played out of spite so much of last season. There was James, staring straight ahead in the locker room as the rap classics blared.
There was James mouthing the words to In the Air Tonight prior to the tip, lingering longer on each “hold on.”
There was James, kissing his mother Gloria — who gave birth to him at 17 and raised him against the odds — on his way back to the locker room at halftime, with a 10-point lead.
There was James, so relaxed that during a third-quarter timeout – as a reasonably tight contest was becoming a blowout — that, with the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling blaring off the arena speakers, he bobbed his head and throttled his wrists as if revving a motorcycle.
There was James, subbed out of the game with 3:01 remaining, embracing a teary-eyed coach, Erik Spoelstra, he was once accused of bumping in anger.
There was James, above it all, alone at the top of the game after one of the great post-season runs in history.
And yet there was James, not really alone at the end, and hardly lonely.
There was James waving a towel, grabbing every Heat teammate, coach and staffer he could find, until the trophy finally found him.
He was asked which, of all the slights and slings since he left Cleveland, bothered him most.
“That I was selfish,” James said.
“I’ll always do whatever I can to help this team win,” he said.
Above all, that’s simply what he did.
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