One year ago, almost everything in Dwyane Wade's life was uncertain.
Former business partners had brought civil lawsuits against him because of failed deals. His years-long divorce battle was still unsettled. Another courtroom fight was looming for custody of his two sons. And the free-agent period was fast-approaching.
"Very long year," Wade said. "Very, very long year."
But it comes with a sweet opportunity to close this chapter.
When Wade and the Miami Heat open the series at home against the Dallas Mavericks tomorrow night, it will be exactly 52 weeks after the civil suits were settled in what was an overwhelming victory for his side.
With that, everything started falling into place.
Wade got his divorce. He stayed in Miami. He got LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join him. He got custody of his sons.
The Heat won 58 games, endured some big bumps along the way but needed only 10 games to get past Chicago and Boston on the way to the Eastern Conference title.
Now they stand four wins from the championship.
"This would be the capper," said Tragil Wade, Dwyane's sister. "My mom has been saying this since his 29th birthday in January: 'This will be the year and he will be rewarded. It'll be in his favour. It will end in his favour.'
"So even now, it's all about belief. We've always had belief. When things are good, when things are bad, we always have to have belief."
After the last 12 months, a championship for Wade would be even more enjoyable than his first, in 2006.
"I know him better than anybody, and I saw the toll that it kind of took on him," said Udonis Haslem, a teammate and one of Wade's best friends. "Through all that, he stayed professional.
"I think he's used basketball as an outlet, as many of us do, and when it was all over and he was fortunate enough to get custody of his kids, I saw a light just shining around him."
Wade said he rarely, if ever, watches tapes of the 2006 finals, and his MVP trophy from that series has remained at the arena the Heat call home for the past five years. Back then, he thought championships would come with regularity.
After the lessons of this year, and the past four title-less seasons, he has grown considerably more appreciative of the moment.
"We're still blessed," Tragil Wade said. "But we know we've got to savour every moment, good and bad. He's still in the prime time of his life right now. We're going to enjoy this."
Players of the week
•Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas. The German 7-footer stepped up as the Mavericks closed out Oklahoma City. In two Mav victories, he averaged 33 points and 7 rebounds.
•LeBron James, Miami. Averaged 31.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the Heat’s two victories and controlled Derrick Rose in crunch time.
•Chris Bosh, Miami. Averaged 21 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Not bad for a third option.
Teams of the week
•Miami. Most thought it would be a tight series, but the Heat rolled through the Bulls.
•Dallas. The surprise team of the play-offs showed their sweep of the Lakers was no fluke.
Duds of the week
•DeShawn Stevenson, Dallas. The Mavs won despite the play of their shooting guard, above. In two games, he averaged 2 points (on 1-of-12 shooting) and 0 rebounds.
•Taj Gibson, Chicago. The Bulls forward averaged zero points and blocks and 4 rebounds.
•Mike Bibby, Miami. Bibby was supposed to answer the Heat’s point guard woes, but he scored five points and had two assists in two victories.
•Chicago. No team won more games (62) in the regular season, but the Bulls’ lack of a No 2 scorer led to them being brushed aside.
Games of the week
Dallas at Miami, tomorrow and Thursday. The Heat open with home-court advantage before the finals switch to Dallas on Sunday.