IN MY OPINION

Greg Cote: Repeat after me – second straight Heat title means everything

 

gcote@MiamiHerald.com

Exhausted Heat players and drained Heat fans found the energy to celebrate Miami here Thursday as midnight neared, a team and a city locked in an emotional group hug as confetti fell in the downtown bayside arena and merrily honking car horns played a symphony outside.

Game 7 was done, and everything was won.

Everything.

There was the best kind of bedlam inside the building and out, but amid all of the happy chaos and noise something quiet and invisible but undeniable was happening.

All of the biggest, grandest words in sports were rising up to embrace the Heat here Thursday night.

Dynasty.

Legacy.

History.

“I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams ever,” LeBron James had said.

They got there Thursday night.

“I came here to win championships,” LeBron had said — plural.

He got there Thursday night.

A second NBA Finals championship in a row separates you, distinguishes you, and for this Miami team, especially, it means everything.

It validates once and for all LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland and underlines his place in the sport’s history. It verifies that the Big 3 blueprint has succeeded. And it suggests that a three-peat is hardly an outlandish dream now for a team that surely will enter next season as the favorite to win again.

Miami outlasted the San Antonio Spurs here, 95-88, on a taut, tense, thrilling night befitting a Game 7.

A loss would have derailed everything for the Heat. It would have meant two Finals losses in the three seasons of the Big 3. To many of the steadfast doubters, critics and haters, that would have equated to failure.

LeBron and the Heat would have none of it.

James played like the league MVP he is, scoring 37 points with 12 rebounds, including a jumper and two free throws in the crucial final minute. He was voted Finals MVP. It better have been unanimous.

“It was time,” Coach Erik Spoelstra explained James’ huge finale. “He rises to the occasion.”

James was asked about enduring all of the hyper-scrutiny upon him.

“I’m LeBron James from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city,” he said as the confetti fell and the fans swooned. “I’m not even supposed to be here.”

Three players in NBA history have won NBA titles and MVP awards two straight seasons: Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, and now James.

He had help.

Dwyane Wade added 23 points Thursday, and Shane Battier was huge off the bench with 18 points on six three-point baskets.

On a night when Chris Bosh, the third of the Big 3, was in foul trouble and held scoreless, James and Wade made up for him, as did Battier.

One year ago, the Heat’s first Big 3-era championship was about relief as much as anything. A burden was lifted. Those critics, doubters and haters who wanted so badly for Miami to fail so badly — they had been silenced.

There was a broader aim this time, a dynasty and failure both in play at opposite extremes.

It was the perfect, proper exclamation to a season that featured a club-record 66 regular season victories including a history-challenging 27 in a row — all of which would have been largely spoiled by a Game 7 loss.

This night would be all or nothing, heaven or hell. A repeat title and budding dynasty, or a loss that so many would equate with flat-out failure.

Heat fans must have felt as if they’d jumped off a bridge on a bungee cord, not sure if they’d bounce back up and feel that exhilaration, or if the cord would break.

“We have a chance in our building to make something great happen, and that’s all you can ask,” Ray Allen had said before the game. “Legacies are tied to the moment, to this game.”

Then Allen said something phrased a bit oddly, but accurate.

“Forever will remember this,” he said.

This was the biggest home game in South Florida professional sports history, and if it wasn’t, the company is select. No home game in the Heat’s 2006, 2011 or 2012 Finals was supercharged, as all-or-nothing like this one.

You’d mention Oct. 26, 1997, a Marlins World Series Game 7 win over Cleveland. You could mention any of the six AFC Championship Games the Dolphins have hosted with a Super Bowl berth at stake. But those were just about GETTING to the big game. At the college level you’d mention UM’s 1983 football national championship won in the Orange Bowl. This was as big as any of them.

No fans left early Thursday night, as they’d been criticized for doing late in the Game 6 comeback. This time, there was a championship coronation to see.

Heck, these fans would have stayed till breakfast.

Who wanted this night to end? This ride?

For Heat players and likely many fans, too, the hours that followed this game would be full of celebrating, or of up-all-night second guessing. As Wade said before the game, “I won’t get no sleep tonight one way or another.”

This was the night the Heat became the most accomplished franchise in South Florida sports history, the night that notion of Miami as a basketball town gained some mathematical backing.

The Heat’s third championship (2006, 2012, 2013) tops the Dolphins’ two Super Bowl wins (1972, 1973) and Marlins’ two World Series (1997, 2003).

The faded Dolphins are trying to be relevant again. The Marlins are surrounded by fan anger and disenchantment.

The Heat are reigning in every sense, with LeBron leading the parade.

He came in averaging 33.8 points in career Game 7’s, and 31.5 in elimination games. Both were all-time NBA bests, and all he did was top them both.

“All the sacrifices we made every single day, it’s about to pay off,” LeBron had told his teammates in a pregame speech.

It sounded like a promise. LeBron James made it come true.

Read more Greg Cote stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
LeBron James cheers as he holds both trophies after the Heat won Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida on Thursday, June 20, 2013.

    In My Opinion

    Greg Cote: Element of doubt makes this Miami Heat quest intriguing

    This time it feels different, doesn’t it? The Heat in the Big3 Era always has found a way to keep things fresh and keep us fascinated, and now that means trying on a role unlike any the team has played in the previous three seasons. This time, for the first time since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade, Miami enters a postseason seeming a bit vulnerable — something close to the unlikeliest of underdogs.

  • In My Opinion

    Greg Cote: Now we find out if waiting for Dwyane Wade was worth it

    Dwyane Wade had earned a new nickname. It wasn’t all that flattering. Heat fans hoped it was temporary, like a press-on tattoo. But, until Saturday night, it fit:

  •  
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade sits the game out as the Heat hosts the Indiana Pacers in a pivotal matchup at the AmericanAirlines Arena for the number one playoff seed in the Eastern Conference on April 11, 2014.

    In My Opinion | Greg Cote

    Greg Cote: For Miami Heat, it’s a numbers game — No. 1 and No. 3

    The Heat’s game against the Pacers here Friday night understandably was billed as the battle for No. 1 — for the top conference playoff seeding as the NBA postseason fast approaches. It was supposed to be crucial because it would determine who would have home-court advantage in a deciding Game 7 in these teams’ inevitable Eastern finals rematch. Nice, neat little story line.

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category