The King’s Quest is done.
After nine long seasons, LeBron James finally won his first NBA Championship, leading the Miami Heat to a 4-1 series victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season.
James suffered through cramps in Game Four of the series yet still nailed a crucial three-pointer to secure that win.
In the series-clinching Game Five, his game-long brilliance (with a triple-double of 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists no less) sealed the deal and he now takes his place among the league’s champions.
When the series shifted to Miami for Game Three, most expected a war between the two best teams in the NBA and neither team disappointed.
For the second straight game, Thunder superstar Kevin Durant was plagued by foul trouble. It was particularly frustrating for OKC as Durant had to go to the bench in the third quarter when they seemed to have control of the game, leading by 10. When their leader was joined off the floor by Russell Westbrook, the Heat started eating into the lead.
Oklahoma City’s last lead came at 77-76, but it was easily overtaken amid a flurry of exchanges, one of which resulted in Durant’s fifth foul as he tried to draw a charge from Dwyane Wade.
Misses from the three-point arc by the Thunder and free throws by the Heat sealed the 91-85 win and a 2-1 series lead for Coach Erik Spoelstra’s quintet.
American Airlines Arena would serve as host for Games Four and Five as well, something that Miami emphasized in hopes of claiming the title on their home floor.
The hours leading up to Game Four saw a peculiar media exchange between James and Serge Ibaka as the latter questioned the three-time MVP’s defensive capabilities over the course of a 48-minute game.
Yet this game actually turned into the Russell Westbrook show when it began. Westbrook was sizzling from the field on a variety of jumpers, layups, and dunks as he led the Thunder’s cause for an early 17 point lead.
Though Oklahoma City finally fixed their slow starts, the Heat still rallied behind balanced scoring for a change. Mario Chalmers and Wade each had 25 points but it was James’ 26 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds that was most important.
Westbrook’s game-long brilliance resulted in 43 points on 20 of 32 field goal attempts, but this night clearly belonged to James. Midway through the fourth quarter, he stumbled to the floor after making a short jumper for a 92-90 Miami lead. He had to be carried off the floor and didn’t return with just over four minutes left in the game and the Heat down two.
Perhaps sensing that he couldn’t drive to the hoop, James nailed a triple to make it 97-94 and send the entire Miami crowd into a frenzy. James then left the game due to leg cramps as the Heat went on to win 104-98 and they were now on the brink of securing the team’s second NBA Championship in six seasons.
With the Larry O’Brien trophy in the building, the Oklahoma City Thunder were literally fighting to play another day. One more loss would mean an end to their Cinderella season.
With a Miami crowd egging the team to bring home the title, the Heat stormed to an 11-point half-time lead behind seldom-used Mike Miller going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. Still, Durant and Westbrook were determined to get back in the game, eating into the advantage in the third.
Then all hell broke loose.
It was Miami’s role players who nailed shot after shot as the Heat slowly broke the game wide open. James kept passing out of double teams as Miller, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers connected from afar.
James’ fellow stars, Chris Bosh and Wade, had 24 points and 20 points respectively as the lead kept growing in the final period. But it was Miller who shocked Scott Brooks’ charges, ending up with 23 points and seven three-pointers as James finally won his first championship in a 121-106 win.
Durant delivered 32 points and 11 rebounds while Westbrook had 19 points, but only went 4 out of 20 from the field. James Harden was a non-factor all throughout the Finals, something which the reigning Sixth Man of the Year will have to figure out if Oklahoma City wants to return to the top of the mountain.
Meanwhile, James ended nine years of frustration and two years of being questioned for his controversial decision to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for South Beach.
Perhaps it was only fitting that he had a triple double in gaining his first title as he has shown a penchant for securing double digit points, rebounds, and assists on a regular basis.
By winning four straight after losing the first game of the 2012 NBA Finals, Coach Spoelstra becomes the first NBA coach with Asian, particularly Filipino, blood to win the title and tied his mentor, Heat president Pat Riley, with 32 playoff wins for the franchise.
James, the Finals MVP, can now focus on defending the gold medal for the US in the coming London Olympics, before retooling the Heat for a possible back-to-back run next season.
In the meantime though, he can rest easy knowing he has finally become what he has long wanted to be: an NBA Champion.