MIAMI (AP) - LeBron James can rest as long as he wants.
He’s now a two-time NBA champion _ and a two-time Finals MVP.
After two years of almost-constant basketball, James still found a way to be at his absolute best in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. He scored 37 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and simply controlled everything down the stretch, as the Heat won the title with a 95-88 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
“This is what it’s all about,” James said. “I came here to win championships and to be able to go back to back, two championships in three years, so far, it’s the ultimate.”
Two days after helping the Heat survive a wild Game 6 in overtime, James’ final numbers went like this: 12 for 23 from the field, 5 for 10 from 3-point range, 8 for 8 from the line.
And in a season where he was the league’s MVP for a fourth time, he’s now added a second ring to the collection. Suddenly, his resume is looking as complete as some of the other all-time greats. Nor should he. Here’s a club: He joined Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the only players in league history to win back-to-back Finals MVP and regular-season MVP awards.
“Listen, I can’t worry about what everybody says about me,” James said, as confetti fell around him. “I’m LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here. That’s enough. Every night I walk into the locker room, I see a No. 6 with James on the back, I’m blessed. So what everybody says about me off the court, don’t matter. I ain’t got no worries.”
Dwyane Wade scored 23 points and won his third NBA title. Shane Battier _ benched earlier in these playoffs _ had 18 on six 3-pointers and said “it’s better to be timely than good,” afterward. Mario Chalmers scored 14 for the Heat, who won despite no points from Chris Bosh.
It didn’t matter. James was good enough to mask any problem the Heat had Thursday night. A series that started with three games of the Spurs supposedly bottling him up and solving the riddle of how to stop the MVP ended with him doing pretty much whatever he wanted.
“It became time,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He always rises to the occasion when it matters the most, when the competition is fiercest.”
He rarely acknowledges this much, but James has to be exhausted. He worked out furiously during the lockout in 2011, in part because he convinced himself that the season would begin on time, in part because he was still smarting from how sub-par he played during the Finals loss to the Mavericks in his first season with the Heat.
Last season began on Dec. 25, 2011. The Heat went through the rigors of that ultra-compacted 66-game schedule and won a title. James went right into training with USA Basketball, eventually helping that team win a gold medal at the London Olympics. After that, he took about two weeks off, then starting getting ready for this season, which went all the way down to the last possible day.
That’s more basketball, under more pressure, than anyone else on the planet in the last two years.
James took all the criticism when the Heat lost those 2011 finals. He took all the criticism in 2010 as well, when the Heat welcomed him and Bosh as Wade’s newest star teammates with a star-studded party that was planned long before James made his infamous “decision” to sign with the Heat.
Now he’s won two titles, and refuses to take all the credit.