x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Second crown validates Miami Heat and LeBron as NBA greats

Victory in Game 7 brought more than another crown for LeBron James and the champions.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James celebrate after defeating the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win Game Seven and the NBA championships. Kevin C Cox / Getty Images / AFP Photo
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James celebrate after defeating the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win Game Seven and the NBA championships. Kevin C Cox / Getty Images / AFP Photo

MIAMI // LeBron James will always remember his first NBA championship. History will remember this one. The way the Miami Heat won, or the way James would not lose, makes them one of the greats.

A Game 6 comeback when it appeared to be over, then a stirring Game 7 victory over proud opponents cemented a place with the NBA’s giants for this Miami team and their leader.

“Last year when I was sitting up here with my first championship, I said it was the toughest thing I had ever done,” James said.

“This year, I’ll tell last year he’s absolutely wrong. This was the toughest championship right here between the two.”

James scored 37 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 95-88 victory late Thursday night in a tense game that was tight until the final minute.

Two nights after his Game 6 save when the Heat were almost eliminated, James continued his unparalleled run through the basketball world, with two titles and an Olympic gold medal in the past 12 months.

“I work on my game a lot throughout the offseason,” said James, who was MVP for the second straight finals. “To be able to come out here and have the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate. The ultimate.”

He made five three-pointers, defended Tony Parker when he had to, and did everything else that could ever be expected from the best player in the game.

The Heat became the NBA’s first repeat champions since the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009/10, and the first team to beat the Spurs in five NBA Finals.

“It took everything we had as a team,” Dwyane Wade said. “Credit to the San Antonio Spurs, they’re an unbelievable team, an unbelievable franchise.

“This is the hardest series we ever had to play.

“But we’re a resilient team and we did whatever it took.”

Players and coaches hugged afterward – their respect for each other was obvious from the opening tip-off of Game 1 through the final buzzer.

A whisker away from a fifth title two nights earlier, the Spurs could not find in what was perhaps the last shot for Tim Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili to grab another ring together. Duncan is 37 and Ginobili will be a 36-year-old free agent next month, the core of a franchise whose best days may be behind them.

They were trying to become the first team to win a Game 7 on the road since Washington beat Seattle in 1978, but the veteran team seemed to run out of energy before the finish. Duncan led them with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Parker scored only 10.

Wade had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who survived a scoreless game by Chris Bosh by getting six three-pointers and 18 points off the bench from Shane Battier.

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