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, his high for this postseason.
“Believe in LeBron,” Heat President Pat Riley said.
Offseason moves will be made. 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.
Then again, if James keeps getting better, Miami’s place in history will probably only rise.
At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, James has a combination of size, speed and strength that seems unmatched in the NBA world. After Miami lost the 2011 finals to Dallas, James decided to improve his post play by working with Hakeem Olajuwon. Last season, his focus was on enhancing his midrange jumper, something he continued working on throughout the season with Ray Allen.
“I want to be, if not the greatest, one of the greatest to ever play this game,” James said. “And I will continue to work for that, and continue to put on this uniform and be the best I can be every night.”