At the end of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder took the walk of shame as LeBron hoisted his first NBA Finals MVP honor.
The feat could not have been sweeter.
In the words of LeBron: “It’s about damn time.”
Fans were exposed to a totally different LeBron. A LeBron that at one time in Cleveland would dance around the sidelines during a blowout was jogging over to Mario Chalmers to tell the young player, “Not yet. Just play ball.” A premature celebration that was held in the Big Three’s favor seems to be long behind him.
James is just not the same man anymore.
The maturation process may have taken far longer than most would have expected or desired but it seems as if James has finally arrived at the coronation he was speculated to have long ago. Yet, we cannot give full credit to him.
To say that James won the 2012 NBA Finals would be blasphemous and outright disrespectful to the role players in the franchise who stepped up when they knew it was time.
Fans saw LeBron believe in the men surrounding him and when you sustain the belief of a superstar, it does wonders for your game. Just look at Mario Chalmers.
As the little brother of the Miami Heat, Chalmers is always on the court being chastised by the men who have spent much more time in the league than him. What does he do?
He takes the criticism in stride, because at the end of the day, the Miami Heat would not have been in this pivotal moment without Chalmers’ 25 points in Game 4. They also could not have done it without the three-point shooting of both Shane Battier and Mike Miller.
There is nothing that can be said about the "lights out" performance that Battier and Miller composed in the last couple of games, especially Miller’s 7-of-8 from the three-ball. There has never been a time in NBA history where a championship has ever been won by a lone man’s effort. Yet, there is not a single man in this franchise that can boost consistency like LeBron James.
Miami fans know it. Dwyane Wade knows it.
Throughout the season, Wade was criticized for handing the reins over to LeBron, who he argued was the best basketball player in the world. People deemed him complacent.
Still, Wade never relented and it was the greatest thing he could have ever done for this team next to being the 2006 NBA Finals MVP just six years ago.
By giving James the steering wheel, he provided the sometimes pressured star with a heightened sense of responsibility and forced him to do the one thing he would have never done in Cleveland. Wade made James grow up.
He was the same man who virtually disappeared in the fourth quarter of every NBA Finals game against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011.
Nevertheless, James became a man who would not be denied. The mental hurdle cascading throughout his career began diminishing with LeBron’s will to win and ability to will his team to power-play performances that would lead them to this position.
Whether it was through facilitating, scoring or defense, LeBron was the alpha male on the court for the Miami Heat who refused to force fans to relive the same pain from the 2011 NBA Finals. There would be no excuses. When you lay it all on the line, all you can do is respect the outcome.
James would be determined to respect nothing less than victory.
This is the same Heat team that went down 2-1 against the Indiana Pacers only to come back with a ferocity that no one could have anticipated. The Boston Celtics pushed this team to the brink of elimination and in Game 6 when everyone counted Miami out, LeBron woke up to remind fans and analysts of exactly why he was prematurely crowned.
James was a different player, man, character. Never had he been seen with the cold-blooded stare of a killer. However, he knew what had to be done. James knew what his franchise needed from him. That’s what makes him extraordinary.
There is a difference between good players and the greatest players in the history of the game.
A good player is solid in his own right. This type of player smiles in the face of defeat and does everything he can to get the job done.
A great player forces his teammates to get on board. He influences the output of those surrounding him and can transform a scoreboard through a variety of ways. This player will be remembered for everything he did individually and everything he was able to do for his teammates competitively.
LeBron James has stepped forth to claim his crown through dedication, hard work and pure resilience.
Nothing could stop him.
And guess what.
“It’s about damn time.”