LeBron James swung for the fences this year. The Miami Heat All-Star forward now has his grand slam.
With the United States' 107-100 victory Sunday over Spain in the Olympic gold-medal game in London, James became just the second player to be named NBA regular-season and NBA Finals Most Valuable Player while also winning NBA and Olympic championships in the same year, something previously only accomplished by Michael Jordan, in 1992 with the original Dream Team.
"It has been a great ride for me. I could have never scripted it this way," he said. "I've had many dreams about it, winning an NBA championship and then following it up with a gold medal, being part of so many great teams."
On the way to Sunday's gold medal, James passed Jordan for second place on the United States' all-time Olympic scoring list, his 273 points now behind only the 280 of David Robinson.
James said Sunday was not about him or his year, but the golden moment, itself.
"This is all about U-S-A, and it's not about me," he said moments after it was over. "It's about these three letters on this chest, and we're happy that we're able to represent our county in the right away."
It was a resounding punctuation for James in his march to the top of the basketball universe, overcoming foul trouble Sunday with an emphatic dunk and 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter to put away a game the United States led by only one point at both halftime and the end of the third quarter.
"I just wanted to try to make an imprint on the game," he said. "I just wanted to come in and make a few shots.''
He did just that, as he has over these past several months, the King now with a ring and an Olympic gold medal.
"He's a basketball genius," NBC commentator and Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins said.
From NBA villain after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent in July 2010, James now finds himself world champion in the truest sense.
"People like him again," said Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who served as an Olympic commentator for NBC. "It's OK again to cheer for LeBron, not in Boston, but in other places."
Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski said it is not out of place to mention James in the same breath as Jordan.
"What a year. NBA champ. MVP. Gold Medal," Krzyzewski said.
Again playing as much as facilitator as scorer, a common theme throughout the two-week competition, James closed Sunday's game with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists, leading the United States in assists in their 8-0 Olympic run to the gold medal.
"I am happy to be in a position where I can say I had something to do with us being back on top," he said in his group interview when it was over.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant led the United States with 30 points Sunday, with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant adding 17. Pau Gasol, Bryant's Lakers teammate, led Spain with 24 points.
It was the 14th Olympic men's basketball gold medal for the United States, with James and New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony joining Robinson as the only three-time U.S. men's basketball medalists, each with two gold and a bronze.
After guard Juan-Carlos Navarro drew Spain within 97-91, James followed with his dunk, with a James 3-pointer with 1:59 to play later putting the United States up 102-93.
"I have seen him grow immensely," Krzyzewski said. "He is the best player and he is the best leader and he is as smart as anyone playing the game right now."
Whether James goes -- or even can go -- for a third gold medal remains somewhat in doubt, with the NBA pushing basketball's international ruling body, FIBA, for a future 23-and-under format for Olympic play. Such an approach is not expected in time for the 2016 Brazil Games, when James will be 31.
"I have no idea," he said of 2016. "I'm going to have fun with my teammates right now and then, I don't know. I'm not even thinking about that right now."
In a game filled with fouls, a game the United States led 83-82 going into the fourth quarter, James had to watch some of the finish as spectator, called for his fourth foul with 7:23 to play. But when he re-entered with 3:20 to play, he helped the United States seize control.
James originally was to be accompanied to London by Miami Heat championship teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Wade and Bosh, however, both withdrew from the Olympics due to injuries that were exacerbated during a Heat championship run that did not end until June 21. Two weeks later, James reported to Olympic training camp, with the national team since. He now has less than seven weeks before the Heat open training camp in late September.
"I'm happy I was a part of it," James said. "I never thought a second about after I was in Miami and won a championship about
me playing. I made a commitment, I wanted to be a part of this, and this is the reason why I came to be a part of this team: To have this bouquet of flowers and a gold medal."
James, Wade and Bosh won Olympic gold in the 2008 Beijing Games, when James still was with the Cavaliers, Bosh with the Toronto Raptors. James becomes the fourth player to win Olympic gold while a member of the Heat, joining Wade, as well as Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, who did it in the 2000 Sydney Games. The Heat have honored each of their previous Olympic gold medalists with a banner atop AmericanAirlines Arena.
It proved to be an Olympic whirlwind for James, including the first-ever Olympic triple-double by a United States player, which he accomplished in the quarterfinals against Australia. Along the way, he played as closer against Lithuania and then offered a key second-half spark in the semifinals against Argentina, doing it again Sunday against Spain. Argentina lost Sunday's bronze-medal game to Russia.
Krzyzewski joined Hank Iba as the only coaches to guide the United States to consecutive Olympic gold medals. Krzyzewski had announced this would be his final Olympics as U.S. coach, with the Duke coach improving Sunday to 62-1 while leading the national team.