MIAMI (AP) - LeBron James held his index finger aloft, then turned and took a walk nine years in the making.
A few moments later, a championship ring _ finally _ was his.
James and the Miami Heat celebrated their NBA title once again Tuesday night, with the ring-and-banner ceremony replete with an indoor fireworks show that immediately preceded their season opener against the Boston Celtics.
James went last, as the crowd roared for the reigning NBA MVP.
“It’s not given,” James said earlier Tuesday. “These moments are not given.”
Stern gave brief remarks to the crowd, starting his address by mentioning “those who were affected” by Hurricane Sandy, which struck the East Coast earlier this week. (Stern misspoke and referred to the storm Hurricane Katrina, though his point was clear.) He congratulated Heat executives and coaches, then lauded Miami’s players.
The only player to address the crowd was veteran Mike Miller, who spoke after warmups.
“We want to thank you guys so much for all your support,” Miller said. “Without you guys, a night like tonight’s not possible. The journey that starts tonight is going to be even more challenging, so we’re going to need your passion, your support and your energy even more. Enjoy the game tonight and let it fly.”
The rings had the words “All In” on one side, and “Family” underneath two images of the Larry O’Brien Trophy on the other. James hugged Stern briefly as the commissioner said a few words, then got a few words from Arison before checking out the box that held his newest bauble.
Players posed for a quick photo as the banner started being raised, then James and others took their rings out to examine the detail. He touched the banner as it rose behind him, then went back to checking out the ring.
Soon, they were put away, the lights came on, and the season started.
“I think we all know what another year’s all about,” James said. “We know what our long-term goal is. But we’re not going to take any short cuts. It’s a process. It’s always been that way for us.”
The pursuit of a title is what drove James every year since joining the NBA in 2003, and he had been close twice, ultimately falling in his first two trips to the NBA Finals.