Quantcast

Heat, LeBron securing places in history

By Tim Reynolds

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 21 2013 11:05 p.m. MDT

So with about a half-minute left and the Heat up by two points, it was that mid-range jumper that sealed Miami's title. James delivered with 27.9 seconds left to make it a two-possession game. Not long afterward, he had the Larry O'Brien Trophy in one arm, the Finals MVP trophy in the other, ready for a well-deserved break from basketball.

"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."

James has already put himself in that best-ever conversation.

"We all know his work ethic," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who spent part of his first day as a two-time champion coach at Jim Larranaga's basketball camp at the University of Miami. "It's probably unique for a guy who has been the best in the game since he was in seventh grade. Usually you wouldn't have the type of work ethic that would match that type of talent."

Jordan won six titles, James only has two. But if that's the sole standard, then Jordan isn't even close either, considering Bill Russell won 11 rings in his Boston career. Russell was there for the Heat title clincher, served as part of the on-court trophy presentations, then retreated to a small room not far from the Miami locker room as players meandered in for one of the immediate perks of winning a title — a photo shoot with the trophy.

James posed for hundreds of photos during his time in there. Camera clicks were a constant sound for about 10 minutes when he was in the room. And before he left, he and Wade waved for Russell to come join them for some more snapshots.

"Get the legend up here," James shouted.

Russell walked to the front of the room as a few people, mostly Heat employees and family members, clapped. He shook hands with the Heat stars, then turned around to face the cameras and said something to James that was barely audible to those even a few feet away.

"You earned this one," Russell said.

James' grin became even broader, and camera shutters kept on whirring. Suddenly, that oft-mocked, oft-replayed "not two, not three, not four" answer James gave during the Heat celebration of their free agency coup in 2010 doesn't look like such a punch line anymore.

"I always felt that when he got up to five, six, seven that he was joking a little bit, but the media decided to take him very seriously," Heat managing general partner Micky Arison said. "I think right now he's real happy with two and next year he'll be worried about three."

James has played 10 seasons now. Including playoffs, his scoring average is 27.6, third-best in league history behind only Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. Since the league began charting plus-minus (the point differential when a player is on the court), James' teams have outscored opponents by 3,861 points with him in regular-season and playoff games. Second-best on that list? Wade, at 2,301 points. That gap is simply huge.

With an average season next year, he'll move into the Top 25 in all-time regular-season scoring. He got more rebounds per game this season than ever before, shot the 3-pointer better than ever before, punctuating that by making five in Game 7 of the finals. And here's what might be truly frightening for opponents: For the sixth straight year, James' shooting percentage got better.

"Hopefully people will leave him alone a little more now," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "He takes a lot of heat, I think undeservedly. He's the best player on the planet. And hopefully now with two titles, he'll get more the benefit of the doubt. But, you know, he's the best. He's the best right now."

So are the Heat. And that can't be argued.

The Celtics, Lakers and Bulls are the only franchises to win three straight titles. That will be the challenge for the Heat next year, to take a great run and make it a truly elite run.

For now, though, James wants no part of that conversation. He's going to enjoy this one for a good long while.

"It's the ultimate," James said. "I don't want to think about next year right now, what our possibilities are next year. Got to take full advantage of this one. It's an unbelievable moment for our team."

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS