A thrilling Game 6 victory in the 2013 NBA Finals by the Miami Heat over the San Antonio Spurs not only guaranteed one final game for the basketball season, but it also ensured that Game 7 has some real living up to do.
If it weren't for a Ray Allen three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in regulation, we wouldn't even be talking about this and would instead be fielding talk about the completion of the final chapter of the Spurs' dynasty and LeBron James' inability to take over games. But here we are, with both of those storylines and more waiting in the balance.
History is sure to be made in Thursday's Game 7, which will shape the legacy of some of the greatest to ever play the game.
Let's break down everything you need to know about the winner-take-all finale.
When: Thursday, June 20, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Key Player to Watch: LeBron James
A massive portion of LeBron James' legacy was on the line in Game 6, and at many times, it looked as if the four-time MVP would once again come up short on the NBA Finals stage that has been cruel to him before.
But when the headband came off, so did the prohibitive lid that was LeBron's struggles. He willed his team back from a 10-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, and, led by his all-around attacking display with a little help from the Heat's clutch shooters, he got the Heat to an overtime period that they would use to seal up Game 6.
He wasn't perfect in crunch time, but there's no doubting that he took over and made it his moment, as Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports points out:
LeBron: 32-10-11 triple-double and a HUGE 3-pointer late in regulation. Had 18 points in 4Q/overtime.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) June 19, 2013
James was all over the place offensively and defensively down the stretch for Miami, and that's what will be needed in Game 7 if he wants to avoid coming up short once again and move one step closer to winning not six, not seven.
Biggest Storyline: Can Spurs Ride off into the Sunset?
Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs had the appropriate storybook ending planned out for what has been the NBA's most dominant dynasty since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. Who knows, maybe they still do.
But with resilient Heat victory after resilient Heat victory coupled with a hard-earned Game 5 win for the Spurs, there's no doubt that Pop's crew may be feeling that fate isn't on their side.
The fifth championship was set in stone with 28 seconds left in Game 6, as Manu Ginobili walked toward the charity stripe with the chance to put the Spurs up six. He made one of two, and two clutch treys by James and Ray Allen erased those hopes before they could sink in.
It's hard to expect this Spurs team to come out with anything other than their best early on in Game 7, though. That's especially true with such high stakes.
The Spurs have thrown everything at LeBron and the Heat, but the Heat have found a way to spoil the Spurs' moment yet again. If they can do so one last time, it'll tarnish the Spurs' legacy.
The Heat have been going "win, loss, win, loss" ever since starting the Eastern Conference Finals series against Indiana, and it would be foolish to assume any different against a team like the Spurs.
But Thursday's game carries the merit that none of those other games did. Thursday is Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and the Heat have LeBron James.
James may not make an iconic buzzer-beater or put up 40 points, but his presence in the game will far outweigh what the Spurs can do. It'll take four or five of San Antonio's key players playing at their best to keep the Heat from running away with this, and I just don't think they have the legs for that.
There's no doubting the Spurs' heart, and Duncan's aggression on the block is sure to continue. But to go against the team with the best player in a Game 7 is just foolish.
Heat 99, Spurs 96: Miami wins the 2013 NBA Finals