The Miami Heat won their second NBA Championship Thursday night, led by the Big Three – LeBron James, Chris Bosh and of course, Dwyane Wade. Game 5 of the championship series ended in Miami’s American Airlines Arena with certain defeat – a 121-106 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. After the Thunder’s win in game one, LeBron and the Miami Heat turned it around to become the first team in NBA history to win 4 consecutive games after losing the first. In fact, they fought back from behind in each playoff series. They showed a mental toughness that reflected all the hardships they overcame and hard work they put in so that they could get to this point.
It was a contentious trade that put this Miami team together two years ago. For much of their first season, they were hated. Most basketball fans, and I’m sure a few players, wanted them to fail. It was the kind of story that generated hundreds of sports articles and fueled interest even for the non-sports enthusiast. The game, even the lockout, seemed peripheral as we all focused on was how (or if) Pat Riley’s Miami Heat, but especially the Big Three, could take home the NBA Championship. They came close in 2011, but fell short. They lost the championship to the Dallas Mavericks and took it badly. According to Dwyane Wade, they had to overcome “…so much pain, so much hurt, so much embarrassment”. The loss was pivotal for them and they dedicated themselves to returning to this moment. When the season started on Christmas day 2011, they were on a mission …and that mission was completed last night!
Thursday night’s game started with a barrage of three-pointers, then Miami turned up the heat with a 19-1 run in the third quarter. Battier made two three-pointers as Miami showed off their offensive game in the third period. Mario Chalmers, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller each had one three-pointer in the third quarter. Miller, who played with a bad back the entire postseason, scored a postseason-career-high 23 points, sinking 7 of 8 three-pointers (reminiscent of Michael Jordan in the 1992 finals). As a team, the Heat made 14 of 26 attempts from three-point range, setting an NBA Finals record. Udonis Haslem had a point, an assist and a rebound. Wade had 20 points, 8 rebounds and three assists. (Both he and Haslem have now earned two championships with the Heat.) Bosh, who missed nine straight games during the playoffs with an abdominal strain, had 24 points and seven rebounds. The final’s MVP, James, scored 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, finishing with a triple-double in the biggest game of his career. His assist total tied a postseason career high. James entered Game 5 averaging 29.3 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the series. Clearly, King James has taken a seat on his throne!
So, after all of the vilification that has been heaped upon this team, the Miami Heat has finally been redeemed. This should be a lesson to all the young players in the league. Talent is great, but not enough. The recurring theme, as the team members were interviewed, was about enduring hardship, their struggling and maturing together. Even Juwan Howard, after 18 years in the league, attested to the team’s recognition of their need to gel, their long hours in the gym pushing each other to work harder. As we spend the next few months drawing comparisons to the champions of the past, questioning whether the Miami Heat can “3-peat”, we must congratulate them. They played a magnificent season. They can exhale. Veni, vidi, vici.