MIAMI – Dwyane Wade was walking down the hallway toward the Miami Heat locker room in the wee hours of Friday morning, still in uniform and fussing with the new championship hat atop his head as his team and their families were in the midst of partying the night away.
He stopped briefly and assessed the celebration.
“We’re getting pretty good at these,” Wade said.
That’s understandable, the Heat are getting plenty of practice at throwing themselves end-of-season parties. Four trips to the NBA Finals since 2006, three championships in that span and with the last two titles coming consecutively, it’s making the decisions that the Heat and LeBron James made three summers ago look pretty smart.
By topping San Antonio in Game 7 of a back-and-forth NBA Finals on Thursday, the Heat became the sixth franchise in league history to win consecutive championships. It’s their third title overall; only four clubs have more. And for James, it capped two seasons where he won all he could – two regular-season MVPs, two titles, two Finals MVPs, even an Olympic gold medal.
“It feels great. This team is amazing. And the vision that I had when I decided to come here is all coming true,” James said. “Through adversity, through everything we’ve been through, we’ve been able to persevere and to win back-to-back championships. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m happy to be part of such a first-class organization.”
James said winning his first title was the toughest thing he’s ever done.
It’s now the second-toughest. Defending the crown, he said, was even more arduous. He was exhausted when it was over – and still scored 37 points in the finale, more than he posted in any other postseason game this season.
“Believe in LeBron,” Heat president Pat Riley said.
Miami did, all the way to the end.
The Heat rolled past Milwaukee in a first-round sweep, needed five games to oust Chicago in the second round, then went to the seven-game limit against Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals and then to the last game again against the Spurs, who actually were 21 seconds away from ending the series in six games before James and the Heat engineered a huge rally.
Without that comeback, a championship-or-bust season would have gone bust.
Instead, legacies were enhanced, more trophies were hoisted, and Miami’s place atop the NBA landscape was cemented.
“To be in the championship three years in a row, to win two of those three, is unbelievable,” Wade said. “Everybody can’t get to the Finals and win six in a row, like win six and not lose one like Michael Jordan. Everyone don’t do that. But we are excited about the future of this organization. We are still a good team. And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we can stay competitive.”
Moves will be made, of course. The Heat have some luxury-tax concerns to address, and it would be a shock if they didn’t try to get even better through a trade or free agency.
“All it’s about now is what’s in front of us,” Riley said.
For now, though, James is going to enjoy this one for a good long while.
“It’s the ultimate,” James said. “I don’t want to think about next year right now, what our possibilities are next year. Got to take full advantage of this one. It’s an unbelievable moment for our team.”
Notes: Miami city officials said fans will not be allowed to carry backpacks at the Heat’s championship parade Monday. … Game 7 was seen by an average of 26.3 million people, the second-most viewers for ABC since it took over the NBA Finals in 2003. Game 7 between the Lakers and Celtics in 2010 had an audience of 28.2 million.