Mario Chalmers delivered clutch contributions during the Miami Heat’s march to its second championship.
But the relationship between the team’s three superstars and their “little brother,” however, will also be one of the lasting memories of the 2012 season.
When Chalmers made a costly error, criticism quickly followed on the court from veterans LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The same players were often quick to congratulate the Heat’s youngest starter when he atoned for the miscues.
Chalmers, 26, basked in the team’s championship celebration Monday with his mostly veteran teammates. The Heat’s starting point guard received one of the loudest ovations of any player when he was introduced during the team’s indoor ceremony that followed the parade.
But even then, James couldn’t pass up a chance to mess with Chalmers.
As he was interviewed at an auxiliary stage, the Heat played a montage of such instances of veteran scolding on the arena’s big screen.
James stood up and mimicked one of his on-court rants from the main stage across the arena — even slamming his cap playfully on the floor.
“It’s tough sometimes, but you have to keep fighting,” Chalmers said. “That’s my motto.”
After two subpar games in which he combined for five points, Chalmers delivered 25 points in the Heat’s pivotal Game 4 victory in the NBA Finals. The victory gave Miami a 3-1 lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder, setting the stage to clinch the series in Game 5.
Chalmers made the biggest difference in the fourth quarter of Game 4 with 12 points. He also chipped in five points in the final minute , including three of four free throws, while James was sidelined with a severe leg cramp.
Without Chalmers’ performance, the Thunder had a chance to swing the momentum of the series, something that did not go unrecognized by his teammates.
“They gave me a lot of love,” Chalmers said after Game 4. “They always have encouraging words. Any time I hear encouraging words after struggling like I have been, it gives you an extra boost of confidence.”
Chalmers added this championship to his list that already included two state titles at Bartlett High in Anchorage, Alaska, and a national title at Kansas.
“[Winning an NBA title] has got to be No. 1,” Chalmers said. “On this stage, with this team, these fans and this coaching staff…there’s nothing better.”
Chalmers’ big game in the Finals wasn’t the only time he stepped up in the playoffs.
He also scored 22 points in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, including 14 in the first half while the Heat was struggling to find offense against the Celtics. The Heat eventually won in overtime.
Chalmers’ postseason was a welcome sight for the Heat after some, in the past, questioned if he was the right player for his starting point guard role.
Chalmers averaged 11.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game during the playoffs after averaging 9.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists during the regular season.
“That kid is not afraid of any moment,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said during the series. “We all know that. He’s a gutsy kid. He’s a gamer. He’s got guts. You can’t quantify that. You can’t measure it.”
Chalmers, who just completed his fourth NBA season, hopes to build upon what he did in this year’s playoffs.
And Monday, he might have found a replacement for his teammates to treat as the “young kid” on the team — rookie point guard Norris Cole.
“Hey Norris, you’re about to go through the same thing I went through, bro,” Chalmers said. “But as long as we keep winning, we’ll keep doing what we do.”