LeBron James was crowned king of the basketball world yesterday, finally claiming the achievement he craved most when he led the Miami Heat to the National Basketball Association title.
James was unanimously named most valuable player (MVP) of the series after he conjured a triple-double of 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to boost the Heat to a 121-106 win for a 4-1 series victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The triumph came in his third trip to the finals and brought James, widely considered the world's best player, a sense of relief and vindication over his decision to leave his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers and join forces with fellow free agents Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
As the final seconds ticked away, the 27-year-old jumped up and down for joy, spread his arms wide and roared along with the wild celebrations engulfing the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Confetti rained down from the rafters as James exchanged hugs and broad smiles with his team-mates and coaches.
Three league MVP awards, four All-Defensive team selections and Rookie of the Year honours had already bloated the NBA list of achievements for James, a basketball prodigy whose St Vincent-St Mary High School games were televised nationally.
But it took the self-proclaimed "King James" nine seasons to earn the elusive NBA ring that has now made him an undisputed winner.
"I dreamed about this opportunity and this moment for a long time, including last night," the 2.03m, 115kg James said. "My dream has become a reality now, and it's the best feeling I ever had.
"It's about damn time!"
Hailed as the heir to six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls as a Sports Illustrated cover boy 10 years ago, while still a high school junior, James has now taken his first step in what seemed a pre-ordained path.
After averaging a disappointing 17.8 points in last year's losing bid against Dallas, James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists against the Thunder.
Heat team-mate Shane Battier, a 13-year NBA veteran, said this week that James needed an NBA title to confirm his greatness in the eyes of the sports universe.
"Whether we like it or not, that's the way we value icons in our society. It's how many Oscars have you won, how many Nobel Peace Prizes have you won? What were your earnings last year as a CEO?
"If you want to be remembered as one of the greatest, you need it. You can be great, but it's difficult to reach the pantheon without it."
Now James has his ring, and can settle in comfortably in the pantheon. Reuters
- © Fairfax NZ News