"My mentality was if we lose, [Heat president] Pat Riley may break us all up," he said. "And I [didn't] want that," James said. "It might be the quickest breakup in basketball history. ... Not only might they break it all up, but my legacy is going to take a huge, huge hit if I don't go out here and perform at an all-time high."
The Heat lost 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks in the first season with the big three. James was roundly criticized for his performance late in that series, including in 2018 when former teammate Eddie House accused the four-time NBA MVP of quitting on the team.
The Heat trailed the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals 3-2 entering Game 6, setting the stage for one of the pivotal games in James' career. He scored 45 points on 19-of-26 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds in a 98-79 win.
Miami went on to beat Boston in Game 7 and defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, with James winning his first championship and Finals MVP.
Windhorst noted the Heat "never seriously considered" breaking up James, Bosh and Wade regardless of what happened in the 2012 postseason, but there certainly was mounting pressure on the franchise nearly two full years after the infamous welcome party press conference.
The Heat ultimately played in the NBA Finals each of the four seasons with their big three together, winning titles in 2011-12 and 2012-13. The group broke up after losing to the 2014 NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs when James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent.