MIAMI, U.S.A. – LeBron James finally has his title.
The three-time most valuable player silenced his critics by guiding the Miami Heat to a 121-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder to clinch his first championship in the National Basketball Association (NBA) on June 21.
The victory gave the Eastern Conference champions a 4-games-to-1 series win over the Western Conference representative.
“It means everything to win this title,” James, who finished Game 5 with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, told reporters after the game. “I made a difficult decision to leave Cleveland [two years ago], but I knew what my future was about, and coming to Miami and becoming part of this organization, I knew we had a bright future.”
James, who averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists en route to the Finals MVP award, was a lightning rod for criticism the past few seasons after the forward continually came up short in the postseason since entering the league in 2003 directly out of high school.
But that changed this year, as he rallied his team to a victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals before trumping the Thunder to hoist his first Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“It humbled me a lot and I was able to go back to the basics,” James said after the game. “I looked myself in the mirror and told myself I had to be better on and off the floor.”
But James, 27, didn’t do it alone.
Veteran forwards Mike Miller and Shane Battier combined to hit a stunning 22 three-pointers in the series after being viewed as the team’s weaker links entering the postseason.
Guard Dwyane Wade, 30, also turned back the clock, shrugging off an apparent knee injury to average 22.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the Finals.
“I have been through a lot in my personal life and my professional life and this means so much more than my first title in 2006,” Wade said after the game. “I had a role to play and at the end of the day we had one common goal: to become champions.”
The Heat also won off the court this season. The team has been active in dozens of community events, including running many of its own social programs, such as swimming classes, school visits, food drives, Christmas giveaways and African-American and Latino history initiatives. Many players also have their own charity programs, including James, who is launching a program to help provide extra educational opportunities to underprivileged children.
“It bothered me that a lot of people said I was a selfish person and a selfish basketball player, and I would do anything to help our team win,” James said after the game. “I play the game with a lot of love and a lot of passion and that’s what I went back to this year. It’s the happiest day of my life and there is no one I would want to spend it with besides my teammates and these fans in Miami. It’s a dream come true.”