“It’s about damn time,” said LeBron James after delivering 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists to lead his Miami Heat to NBA championship clinching win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He couldn’t be anymore correct.
From his demeanor before tip-off (“Eye of the Tiger” eyes and a stance showing no trace of humor, hesitation, and or anxiousness) to his first basket (a monster dunk), it was evident that The King was finally prepared for this damn time.
This game—heck, this championship series—was never in doubt.
You can say anything you want about LeBron—“He took the easy way to a title,” “Had he not used to be a choker, this should already be his second straight title”—but the fact is the man has always been a basketball god. It just took him some time to emphatically fulfill that status. And just so no one ever forgets it, he even delivered a near-triple double performance for this entire series and showcased a newfound determination to win.
But what we really admire about this version of LeBron is how he no longer appears to be easily rattled by rampaging opponents, as he was in the final few minutes of the gold medal game in the 2008 Olympics, or the last three games of last year’s NBA Finals. “Oh, so you managed to trim our 17-point lead to five,” he seemed to be saying after the Thunder’s run in the middle of the third quarter. “No worries. I’ll steal the ball, pass to an open Mario Chalmers for a three. Then I’ll look for Mike Miller for another three on the next play. So now we’re back up by 11.” And from there the party just raged on.
The other guys
LeBron of course couldn’t have won all the games by himself—though we’re quite sure that had he needed to, he might have done so. He needed help. He needed the other Big Three to play like they were the other Big Three. We can never find the nerve to call Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh the “great sidekicks,” but they sure played the role to the hilt for this entire NBA Finals.
Game Five saw Wade end up with 20 points and eight rebounds while Bosh contributed 24 points.
It was the Miami’s role players who were the real key to this series. Mario Chalmers was his now-usual steady self (10 points, seven assists) but it was walking-wounded Mike Miller who stole the show for Game 5. Miller had 23 points in 23 minutes; he drained seven treys (or seven more that he had for the entire series). A performance like that from a guy who’s considered basketball’s only active baldadong player brings to mind what Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked about Miller, his former player when they were still both at Orlando, during the Eastern Conference Finals, “I don’t think he’s hurt.”
Miller grimaced with almost every step he took. He routinely held on to different parts of his body right after exerting some kind of effort. Heck, he even appeared hurt after making all his shots.
But that’s what it takes to win an NBA Championship. You’ll have to live up to your greatness and make your teammates appear half as talented as you are. You’ll have to show a different level of determination, like Nelson Asaytono once said, “sugod ako ng sugod.” You’ll have to accept your roles for the betterment of the team. And you’ll have to say “f*ck off” to your injuries. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of OKC will learn about that someday—maybe even as early as next year.
For now, there’s a party at South Beach and it sure bums us out that we can’t join it.